You have heard all about sleep apnea, but never thought you could have it. After your partner got frustrated listening to you snore all night and hearing you wake up multiple times, you finally got evaluated. You were told you have sleep apnea and have been living with it for a while. Should you be worried? What does a sleep apnea diagnosis mean for me?
A Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Means Pay Attention
Don’t ignore sleep apnea thinking it isn’t important. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a dangerous sleep disorder that happens when you stop breathing hundreds of times during the night.
It occurs when the upper airway muscles relax and pinch off or narrow your airway to breathe. This prevents you from getting sufficient air and lowers the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain senses the problem and wakes you up many times each hour. You never get the deep restful sleep we all need.
Also pay attention to symptoms like sleepiness, lack of concentration during the day, dry mouth and headache in the morning, daytime fatigue, irritability, and reduced sex drive to name a few. These are all signs of OSA.
A Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Means You Could Be In Danger
OSA has longterm consequences for your health. Several case studies have shown there is an association between OSA and medical problems like type 2 diabetes, heart attack, stroke, atrial fibrillation, liver problems, and a shortened lifespan. Obesity is common in OSA and that increases your risk of those very medical issues. In many cases obesity is the root cause of type 2 diabetes, heart attack, and stroke.
This doesn’t mean all obese people have obstructed sleep apnea, but there is a stong association with diabetes (independent of obesity) as it can increase blood sugar levels.
A Sleep Apnea Diagnosis Means You Need To Seek Treatment
There are three levels of OSA from mild to severe. Treatment depends on the level of OSA.
If symptoms are mild, Annapolis Asthma Pulmonary & Sleep Specialists may recommend lifestyle changes like the following:
- Lose weight
- Work to get diabetes levels safe
- Sleep on your side
- Stop smoking
- Skip heavy meals, alcohol, and caffeine before bed
For more severe cases, the first line of treatment is using a continuous positive airflow pressure machine (CPAP) machine. This gives you humidified air to keep the airway open all night.
There are less obtrusive devices available as well. Talk with Annapolis Asthma Pulmonary & Sleep Specialists about whether they might be right for you.
Surgery is a last resort if other treatments are not successful.