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FAQ - Is having sleep apnea dangerous? Is help readily available?  Answer To Frequently Asked Question


FAQ - Is having sleep apnea dangerous? Is help readily available?

  Obviously, professional medical attention is needed for patients suffering from sleep apnea; but the fact is that millions of people are suffering from acute sleep apnea and do not recognize the symptoms or the need for medical assistance. The science of sleep disorder is very specific and modernized. Professional, immediate assistance is available.

Sleep is such an important component of health and proper human function that many states have passed laws mandating financial and medical assistance for sufferers of sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. These temporary pauses, called apneas ("without breath"), individually last long enough so one or more breaths are missed, and occur repeatedly throughout the night. The standard medical definition includes a minimum 10 second interval between breaths, with either a neurological arousal (3-second or greater shift in EEG frequency, measured at C3, C4, O1, or O2), or a blood oxygen desaturation of 3-4 percent or greater, or both arousal and desaturation. In a nutshell, your breathing stops and starts, with long hesitations, repeatedly throughout the night - waking you up continuously.

Sleep apnea is positively diagnosed with a Home Sleep Test, or PSG in a hospital or lab setting.

Clinically significant levels of sleep apnea are defined with the PSG as 5 or more events of any type per hour of sleep time. There are two distinct forms of sleep apnea: 1) Central and 2) Obstructive. Breathing is interrupted by the lack of effort in central sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite effort. In mixed sleep apnea, there is a transition from central to obstructive features during the events themselves.

Regardless of type, the individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body (sequelae). Symptoms may be present for years, even decades without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance. What this can mean is that the person is never receiving a "good night's sleep" and is essentially becoming clinically exhausted and remaining that way for years.

Common signs and symptoms - for both adults and children

Signs of obstructive sleep apnea include restless sleep and loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps). Other symptoms are non-specific: morning headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability, forgetfulness, mood or behavior changes, decreased sex drive, increased heart rate, anxiety, depression, increased frequency of urination, nocturia (getting up during the night to urinate), esophageal reflux and heavy sweating at night.

The most serious consequence of obstructive sleep apnea is possible damage to the heart. In severe and prolonged cases, there are increases in pulmonary pressures that are transmitted to the right side of the heart. This can result in a severe form of congestive heart failure.

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