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What is Sleep Apnea? Part 2

Helpful Information About this Serious Sleep Disorder: Diagnosis, Complications and Treatment Options

As we continue to look into what Sleep Apnea is, in this post we will discuss the diagnosis of sleep apnea, complications that are associated with the sleep disorder, and lastly, treatment options that are currently available.

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

A doctor who suspects you have sleep apnea may ask questions, such as the following to learn more about your condition:

  • What is your typical sleep schedule?
  • Do you take any medications to help you sleep?
  • How long does it take for you to fall asleep?
  • How much sleep do you think you get each night?
  • Has anyone told you that you snore?
  • Have you ever been jolted awake of felt “panicky” when you awake?
  • How do you feel when you wake up?
  • Has anyone in your family had a sleep disorder?

Next, the doctor may recommend an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram (PSG). You sleep overnight at a sleep laboratory while special equipment records your brain waves, oxygen levels, heart rhythm, eye and leg movements, and airflow. A sleep specialist then interprets the results.

Some people can do a Home Sleep Test (HST). This is a modified type of sleep study that can be done in the comfort of your home. It records fewer body functions than PSG, so if you have an underlying health condition, your doctor will recommend an in-lab sleep study.

Sleep study results will reveal valuable information about your condition.

Sleep study results will reveal valuable information about your condition, such as:

  • How often you wake up
  • How long you spend in each sleep stage
  • If you stop breathing or have trouble breathing
  • If you snore
  • Your body position and limb movements
  • Unusual bran activity patterns

With this information, your doctor can prescribe the most effective treatment for you.

Complications Associated with Sleep Apnea

If untreated, sleep apnea increases your risk for a variety of other serious health issues:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease, abnormal heartbeat (atrial fibrillation), and stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Metabolic syndrome (a group of health conditions—for example, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, and increased waist circumference – that increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes, or stroke)
  • Liver problems
  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Asthma symptoms
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Eye disorders such as glaucoma
  • Depression
  • Memory loss
  • Acid reflux

It’s also important to understand that your sleep apnea just doesn’t complicate your life—it also complicates the life of your sleep-deprived partner. Loud, chronic snoring can prevent anyone in the vicinity from getting a good night’s sleep.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

There are many effective methods to help treat sleep apnea. Below are a couple:

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes are the important first step to normalize breathing so you can get a good night’s rest. Changes may include:

  • Developing healthy sleeping habits
  • Following a heart-healthy diet
  • Losing weight
  • Stopping smoking
  • Not using alcohol or sleeping pills
  • Treating allergies, especially nasal allergies
  • Sleeping on your side


Medical Devices

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
The most popular treatment for sleep apnea. You wear a mask over your nose or mouth while you sleep. The mask is connected to a machine that delivers a constant flow of air to keep your airways open so you can breathe—and sleep–normally.

Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP)
BiPAP is like CPAP, but the airflow changes as you inhale and exhale. BiPAP isn’t right for everyone, so be sure to talk with your doctor.

Sleep Apnea Is Serious—But Can Be Treated Effectively

Think you or a loved one may have sleep apnea? Contact your doctor for a consultation. The sooner you are diagnosed, the sooner you can start treatment—and enjoy a good night’s sleep!

Tagged in health sleep sleep apnea