July 2015 Article

Jeremiah 29; 11 “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Who knows about sleep apnea?
First let me begin by saying that sleep apnea is a disease that affects adults as well as children. I should know that it affects children as I have been diagnosed with it as an adult, but suffered with the symptoms since childhood. Unfortunately I’m left with the thoughts of “so that’s what was happening to me all those years”. I can’t help but feel that many years of my life were severely altered by this disease, but I am glad that it did not result in my death.

I am writing this article to raise awareness specifically about sleep apnea, but there are many sleep disorders that can be diagnosed through a proper sleep study. I am also writing this article for children who may be suffering from this disease, so that they aren’t left with years of undue stress on their bodies. And I am writing this for adults who still aren’t aware that this disease may be affecting them.

What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs during sleep where the person stops breathing up to hundreds of times while sleeping. This cycle prevents the brain and the rest of the body from getting enough oxygen. People who are affected by sleep apnea may have issues with excessive daytime sleepiness. Common symptoms of sleep apnea may include daytime fatigue, a slower reaction time, and vision problems. If untreated, there is increased risk for health problems such as diabetes. Sleep apnea can also result in death due to lack of oxygen to the body.

Types of sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes during sleep and blocks the airway, often causing you to snore loudly.
Central sleep apnea is a much less common type of sleep apnea that involves the central nervous system, occurring when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing. People with central sleep apnea seldom snore.
Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

What to look for
Most people being affected by sleep apnea are not aware of their condition. In most cases someone has observed the person sleeping and noticed the shallow breathing, excessive snoring that’s loud enough to wake up others or yourself, or the pauses in breathing and loud snoring that were previously mentioned. Not everyone who’s affected by sleep apnea snores, but the daytime fatigue, mood swings, and lack of focus can also be signs.

Before treatment can begin there needs to be a diagnosis. A sleep study is the best way to be sure if you are being affected by sleep apnea or not. In most cases your family doctor will need to refer you to a sleep specialist; if you do not have a family doctor or medical benefits, a doctor at a free clinic can also refer you to a sleep specialist. To help get a sleep specialist referral it is probably a good idea to record yourself or have someone record or observe the person during sleep. Treatment varies with each case. For some with mild sleep apnea lifestyle changes may be sufficient, such as quitting smoking and losing weight. For severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea surgery may be necessary to unblock the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea can also be treated with a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine supplies forced air through a mask to keep the airway open. There are other machines with variable pressure called BPAP or bi-level positive airway pressure that reduces pressure so that there is no continuous pressure to breathe against when exhaling. There are other treatments and new ones being introduced so I can’t fit them all here.

Final Thoughts
I must be sure to say that this is not an all inclusive or exhaustive list of symptoms or diagnoses. I personally have experienced most of the symptoms associated with sleep apnea. The symptoms that most experts list are just the beginning. When the body does not get proper rest for years on end it can cause premature aging, fertility issues, and with the daytime fatigue it can even inhibit the ability to loose weight, which by the way will help lesson the severity of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a serious condition, and any speculations about being affected by this disease should be taken seriously. For a child especially, years of wear and tear on the body can be avoided if diagnosed and treated early, and for adults diagnosis and treatment can bring a much better quality of life. For adults being affected by sleep apnea consideration for others should also be a motivator, for instance hurting someone on the job due to fatigue, or causing an accident due to fatigue or falling asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle. Finally, do not allow lack of insurance or money dictate your decision to seek help. There are always programs to help those get medical services and supplies that they need who otherwise would not have access to them.

Source Material

Sources so far:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_apnea (Paragraph 3) Summation
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/sleep/sleep-apnea.htm (Paragraph 4) Entirety


~ Steven


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