by Autumn Pappas, Board Certified Health and Lifestyle Coach
How hard is it to get a good night’s sleep these days? Harder than you think! Approximately 42 million Americans suffer from Sleep-Disorder Breathing (SDB). SDB refers to a number of nocturnal breathing disorders; including sleep apnea. A surprising 75% of severe SDB cases remain undiagnosed.
What is Sleep Apnea? Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. You may have sleep apnea if you suffer from a lack of energy, morning headaches, hypertension, frequent urination at nighttime, depression, large neck size, excessive daytime sleepiness or gastroesophageal reflux. Nighttime gasping, choking, coughing and irregular breathing during sleep are also a sign of sleep apnea.
There are two main types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is more common, and occurs when throat muscles relax. CSA arises when the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Many people suffer from both types of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is more prevalent in males. Other increased risk factors include endocrine disorders, metabolic disorders, hypertension, obesity, facial or upper airway abnormalities and a family history of obstructive sleep apnea. Those who use alcohol, sedatives, or smoke are also at a greater risk.
If you suffer from excessive fatigue or other common sleep apnea symptoms, go see your primary care doctor. Your doctor can refer you to a sleep medicine center where a consultation can determine if you are a good candidate for a sleep study. If chosen, you may participate in an in-home sleep study or an in-hospital study. An in-home study costs much less than an in-hospital study, but consequently is much less accurate. Home studies can’t read if a patient is asleep or not, because they are not able to measure brain waves. Furthermore, no one monitors the patient during an in-home study, so readings can often be less accurate. In-hospital studies are much more specialized as they measure many things at once: your breathing effort, respiratory response, brain waves, stage of sleep, airway obstruction, eyelid movement, muscle tone and leg movement.
Eighty percent of patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea perform a second sleep study, producing another set of more in-depth readings that assist clinicians in deciding what sleep device will help the patient most. Many patients are able to relieve symptoms of their sleep apnea by wearing a CPAP machine during their sleep; which supplies constant air pressure with the patient’s breaths. Early CPAP machines had very little controllable features, although new advancements in CPAP machine technology now allow patients better personalized treatment of their apnea. As some sleep apnea patients age, they may need to participate in additional sleep studies or purchase new CPAP machines, since the likelihood and severity of their sleep apnea can increase.
There are many ways to better your sleep, whether you suffer from sleep apnea or not. Harvey Hochstetter, Clinic Manager and Registered Polysomnagraphic Technologist at Jefferson Sleep Center says that the top three rules for getting a good night’s sleep include “sleeping somewhere dark, quiet and with a cool temperature.” You can also drink valerian, passionflower or hops tea to relax your nervous system. Stay away from electronic devices and eating within two hours of bedtime, as both can keep you awake. Remember, good quality sleep is essential for our health and well-being.
Health Coach Autumn (sign up for a free consultation with me at http://www.pacificnorthwesthealth.com)