Your Tahoe Health: Surprising facts about sleep apnea
Special to the Sun
Lack of sleep contributes to 100,000 car accidents, $16 billion in health care expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity every year.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies insufficient sleep as a public health epidemic.
Feeling sleepy during the day? The occasional late night or graveyard shift may cause drowsiness, but increasing research shows chronic lack of sleep can lead to a broad range of issues. Consider some facts and concerns about sleep apnea, one of the most common sleep disorders.
Risks from Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs during sleep when a person experiences pauses in the breath or takes shallow breaths. For some, this phenomenon occurs thirty or more times within an hour.
Usually when normal breathing resumes, a snort or choking sound occurs.
Medical Problems Associated with Apnea
Irregular breathing makes it difficult to get a decent night’s sleep. Studies have shown the following medical concerns when sleep apnea goes untreated:
Decrease in energy and activity level
Unstable blood sugar levels and hunger hormones
Effects on memory, focus, and concentration
Impairment of work or school performance
Increase risk of heart attack, obesity, stroke, and diabetes
Increase risk for mental health issues, including depression and anxiety disorders
Sleep Apnea Types
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of apnea, interferes with the flow of oxygen to the body. It occurs during sleep when the throat muscles relax and air struggles to get through the upper airway. After the person wakes and sits up, the obstructive sleep apnea episodes stop.
Central apnea occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Central apnea is quiet and does cause the patient to snore.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep apnea is more common in older and overweight individuals, but can occur in adults and children.
These are signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
Feeling unrefreshed after sleeping, taking unplanned naps, or showing tiredness during the day
Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
Headaches in the morning
Acid reflux or persistent heart burn
Decreased interest in sex
Chronic awakenings or insomnia
Memory changes, depression, or anxiety
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation
Studies show adults need seven to eight hours sleep each night, but individual sleep needs vary.
Signs of sleep deprivation include depending on an alarm to wake up, being cranky or forgetful, or relying on caffeine to make it through the day. Consult your doctor to see if a sleep medicine specialist is the next appropriate step.
Candice Raynor, FNP, leads Barton Health’s sleep medicine program. Any patient age 12 or older experiencing sleep apnea symptoms can seek diagnosis, tests and treatments tailored to Lake Tahoe’s high elevation. Contact Barton Sleep Medicine at 530-543-5629 for more information.