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How can Sleep Apnea Affect My Health?

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Obstructive sleep apnea is perhaps the most common of all sleep disorders and affects nearly 18 million people in the United States. Yet few people realize the dangers of the disorder. Patients with sleep apnea not only snore, they also experience episodes of respiratory obstruction greater than 10 seconds. If left untreated, this can result in a number of health problems including hypertension, stroke, congestive heart failure, diabetes and heart attacks, just to name a few. Occasionally, the disorder proves to be fatal. If you or someone you love suffers from sleep apnea, Dr. Milestone and The Migraine Center of NJ provides a multidisciplinary treatment approach to help you live a happier and healthier life.

Are you drowsy during the day with no explanation?

Do you snore loudly or wake up breathless in the middle of the night?

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, you may be one of more than 12 million Americans who are affected by sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops periodically during sleep, as many as 20-30 times per hour. Each time you stop breathing in your sleep, the resulting lack of oxygen alerts your brain, which temporarily wakes you up to restart proper breathing. Because the time spent awake is so brief, most people with sleep apnea don’t remember it, and many feel like they are getting a good night’s sleep, when in fact, they are not. The constant wake-sleep, wake-sleep cycle prevents those with sleep apnea from achieving deep sleep, resulting in a constant drowsy feeling during the day.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?

The following symptoms can indicate the presence of sleep apnea. If you notice one or more of these, contact our practice.

  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Loud snoring at night
  • Waking up at night short of breath
  • Snorting or choking sounds during the night (indicating a restart of breathing)
  • Headaches upon waking in the morning
  • Falling asleep unintentionally during the day
  • Extreme drowsiness throughout the day

Are there different types of sleep apnea?

There are three categories of sleep apnea. The most common is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and occurs due to a physical blockage, usually the collapsing of the soft tissue in the back of the throat. Less common is central sleep apnea (CSA), in which breathing stops because the muscles involved don’t receive the proper signal from the brain. And some people suffer from “mixed” or “complex” sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central.

What are risk factors for sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in males than females, and more common in older adults (40+) than younger adults and children. However, anyone — regardless of gender or age — can suffer from sleep apnea. Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, drinking, use of sedatives or tranquilizers, and family history. Central sleep apnea strikes most often in people with heart disorders, neuromuscular disorders, strokes, or brain tumors. It is also more common in males.

Is sleep apnea dangerous?

Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical problem and if left untreated can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart failure and stroke. The ongoing state of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can lead to problems at work or school, as well as danger when driving or operating heavy machinery. Sleep apnea can also cause complications with medication or surgery; sedation by anesthesia can be risky, as can lying flat in bed after an operation. If you know or suspect you suffer from sleep apnea, let your family doctor know before taking prescribed medication or having surgery.

How is sleep apnea treated?

Treatments for sleep apnea depend on the severity of each individual case, and the type of apnea. Basic treatment can be behavioral — for instance, patients are instructed to lose weight, stop smoking, or sleep on their sides instead of on their backs. Beyond that, oral devices can be used to position the mouth in such a way that prevents throat blockage. In more severe cases, surgery may be the best option. This customized approach means that each patient’s case will be reviewed Dr. Milestone who will decide which treatment option is best for you. It’s personalized, comprehensive and designed to help you regain control of your life and life pain free.

Even though snoring frequently benign the problem does however, link to social impairment of lifestyle for the individual and the bed partner and snoring may indicate a more significant sleep disordered known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses or obstruction during breathing of which the individual is rarely aware. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem but others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected by the individual because of daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and alertness.

Untreated for years the sufferer may begin to experience the early signs of cardiovascular disease including hypertension and many of the medical problems that follow untreated high blood pressure. Perhaps the most significant and subtle effect occurs in the individual dealing with the daytime fatigue and slower reaction time in processing and completing tasks that all of us are faced with each day. The individual becomes conditioned to the daytime drowsiness and fatigue and resolved to the fact that this is the way it’s always going to be.

Many of the patients that are evaluated by Dr. Milestone at The Migraine Center of New Jersey have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and placed on the right therapy path such as CPAP or continuous positive airway pressure remains the most common form of treatment of sleep apnea. However, at least 50% of individuals placed on CPAP are not able to tolerate the therapy either due to the mask fit or the pressure required. Untreated, these patients are at risk for developing a long-term problems of cardiovascular disease and the effects of daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and the ability to function with adequate focus and attention.

At The Migraine Center of NJ, Dr. Milestone and the team will evaluate your past sleep history, sleep studies, prior treatment and existing levels of airway obstruction on the physical exam to determine effective options. Treatment may be as simple as an oral appliance that can be fabricated in the office or a minimally invasive procedure to reduce the tongue volume. More extensive surgical procedures, if necessary, will be presented in detail.

Please contact us at our Paramus NJ office at 201-845-8411 to schedule a complete consultation.