Sleep apnea is characterized by loud snoring, indicating blocked air passages, and a cessation of breathing. In severe cases, a person can stop breathing more than 50 times per hour and hundreds of times during the night with apnea spells lasting up as long as ten seconds. A person’s bed partner is the first question the possibility of sleep apnea. The disorder is most common in middle-aged, overweight men but anybody can have it, including thin people, young people and women. More than 20 million people nationwide don’t even know that they are at risk.
Get tested at home!
An innovative technology called a WatchPAT, is available at Tenpenny IMC. This non-invasive, portable assessment is used for the detection of sleep apnea. It is FDA-approved and clinically proven, with more than 50 published studies confirming its efficacy as a screening tool. The best part is that it is patient friendly: the test is done at home, in the comfort of your own bed. Weighing less than 4 ounces, the device fits on the top of your hand using a soft Velcro glove. The device is returned in the morning and the results are known within minutes.
It is recommended that patients with more than 20 respiratory events per hour aggressively seek treatment for sleep apnea due to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and mortality increases. However, even patients with less than five respiratory events per hour may merit treatment if they complain of sleepiness and fatigue so they don’t develop complications such as heart failure following years of being untreated.
Who to Treat
The initial step is deciding who needs treatment. Severity is measured by the number of apneas (cessations of airflow) or hypopneas (reductions in airflow) per hour that cause sleep arousal. This measurement, called the “respiratory disturbance index” or RDI for short. All of these measurements can be identified with the WatchPAT.
Weight and sleep apnea
The majority of patients who have obstructive sleep apnea are overweight, even though some of the most serious cases of sleep apnea I have seen have been very petite women. If you are over weight, even losing a modest amount of weight, such as 20 to 30 lb (10 to 13kg), can significantly improve sleep apnea.
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The most well known treatment for sleep apnea is with a continuous positive airway pressure devise referred to as a CPAP machine. It has the most consistent result and has been the most extensively studied of all treatments. CPAP machines blow air under pressure into the nostrils. The air acts as a splint to keep the airway in the back of the throat open, preventing apnea. A CPAP can reduce daytime sleepiness due to improved sleep quality.
Various oral appliances can be used to move the tongue or jaw forward an open the airway. Mouth guards for the treatment of sleep apnea help up to two thirds of patients, particularly those who have only mild apnea. If the obstruction appears to be caused by an nasal congestion, Tenpenny IMC’s allergy elimination program and supplements such as OptiAllerX have been shown to shrink nasal mucosa and decrease snoring.
Patients who snore but have no more than mild sleep apnea as assessed on the WatchPAT can use something called good sleep hygiene to improve sleep. Too much noise, light, or activity in your bedroom can make sleeping harder. Creating a quiet, comfortable sleeping area can help. Here are some things you can do to sleep better. Having an evening routine and a set bedtime will help your body get used to a sleeping schedule and try to go to bed at the same time every night. And get up at the same time every morning, even if you feel tired.
Sometimes raising the head of the bed and avoiding the sleeping on your back can decrease the severity of snoring and apnea. Elevation of the head tends to bring the tongue forward, while sleeping on the side moves the tongue to the side instead of resting on the back of the throat.
It is estimated more than 24 million are undiagnosed and under treated for sleep apnea, resulting in many health problems. Don’t be one of them! Get tested and start a new life during May, National Better Sleep Month.