Do you often wake up after a night’s sleep feeling exhausted? Do you snore loudly? Have trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep? Feel cranky, irritated and unable to concentrate?
If you’re thinking, yep, that’s me; you might have sleep apnea. Besides making you feel tired all the time, it’s been linked to job-related injuries, car accidents, heart attacks, and strokes.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes your breathing to pause when you sleep because your airway becomes blocked. Of course you brain doesn’t like to be deprived of oxygen, so it wakes you up to you start breathing again. This pausing and waking can happen up to 100 times an hour in severe cases.
Even a less severe case of sleep apnea can make you sleep more lightly. You may not even know you have a problem, but your sleeping partner probably has a good idea that you have been snoring and tossing and turning. Sleep apnea is common in overweight people, but it can affect anybody.
The condition is a major cause of daytime sleepiness. If you think you have sleep apnea it is a good idea to get sleep testing, because your doctor can’t make a diagnosis in the office or from a blood test.
The National Institutes of Health recommends that you keep a sleep diary for at least a week before you visit your doctor. Write down when you go to sleep, wake up, and take naps. Also write down how much you sleep each night, how alert and rested you feel in the morning and how sleepy you feel at various times during the day.
Your doctor will ask you a lot of questions about your health symptoms, your family health history and check your mouth, nose and throat.
He or she may have you take a polysomnogram, or PSG, which is a test that will record information that can help diagnose sleep apnea.
The good news here is that in most cases you can do this test at your own home and don’t have the extra expense and inconvenience of spending a night away from home in a sleep clinic.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea after testing, your doctor has a few treatments in the toolbox. You might try a special mouthpiece that can be effective in less severe cases.
A CPAP machine is another effective treatment for moderate to severe apnea. A CPAP machine uses a mask that fits over your mouth and nose.
The machine gently blows air into your throat, which keeps your airway open while you sleep.
A lot of patients have problems with CPAP side effects like dry mouth, runny nose, discomfort and so on. They stop using the treatment and slip back into sleep apnea.
If you have these sort of problems, don’t give up. It’s important to work with your sleep specialist or CPAP technician when you’re having trouble with CPAP side effects.
Most people feel much better once they get treatment with CPAP. You will want to follow up with your doctor and try not to gain weight which can worsen the condition.
There are also some surgical procedures that can help stop airway blockage.