Sleep apnea is an increasingly common yet little-understood health concern for many Australians. It's caused by the throat constricting at regular intervals throughout the night, resulting in disruptions to breathing. If you've been feeling fatigued and wake up feeling unrefreshed even after many hours of sleep, your doctor may suspect that you have developed sleep apnea. Here are the answers to four questions you may have about what happens next.
1. How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
The most accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea is by completing a sleep study at a specialist sleep clinic. This involves an overnight stay at the clinic where your sleep will be monitored by a variety of medical technology devices.
As well as monitoring your breathing, the clinicians will also monitor your heart rate, brain waves, movement and blood oxygen levels. The results of this monitoring are used to determine whether you are suffering from sleep apnea or not.
2. What causes sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is most commonly caused by lifestyle issues. Being overweight is the biggest contributor to developing the problem due to the excess pressure that is placed on the neck and throat during sleep. Consuming too much alcohol can also contribute to the development or worsening of sleep apnea.
Genetic factors also play a role in the development of sleep apnea. The bone structure of your neck and jaw and the muscle structure can make you more prone to the constriction of your airways during sleep.
3. Is sleep apnea dangerous?
If left untreated, sleep apnea can be a very serious threat to your health. The reduction of oxygen consumption over a long period of time can cause high blood pressure, heart problems and pressure on lung function. These problems can be life threatening, particularly if you have any previously diagnosed or underlying heart or lung issues.
The other main risk of not treating sleep apnea is the effect that fatigue and excessive sleepiness can have on your safety. Activities such as driving or operating machinery can become deadly if you're unable to stay aware and awake.
4. How is sleep apnea treated?
In many cases, if sleep apnea is diagnosed early, it can be managed effectively with lifestyle changes. This often involves weight loss and exercise as well as a reduction in alcohol consumption and smoking cessation.
For severe sleep apnea or when there is a structural, genetic cause, further treatment will be required. This is usually in the form of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine which keeps the airways clear and delivers a steady stream of oxygen to the body. In rare cases, surgery may be necessary to clear the airways of a major obstruction.
Reach out to a local sleep study clinic to learn more.
Hello, my name is Peter and I live in Western Australia with my wife on our pet dogs. This is my blog which details how to deal with various medical emergencies and other conditions. Last year, several friends and members of my family suffered from various different kinds of medical problems. Some of them, such as my uncle had to be rushed to the hospital for immediate treatment that saved his life. Lots of my friends had minor problems which had a big impact on the quality of their lives. I take an active interest in first-aid and other medical matters so I decided to start this blog.