Sleep apnea is very common condition that affects more than 12 million Americans according to the National Institutes of Health. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times a night and often for a minute or longer. These periods when breathing stops, called apneas, are followed by sudden attempts to breathe. The result is fragmented sleep that leads to insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness.
If you snore or find yourself gasping for air while sleeping, take our Sleep Risk Assessment to learn more about your risk for sleep apnea. Then, schedule an appointment with your SSM Health provider to discuss your results and learn about the steps you can take for better sleep.
Sleep Apnea: Risk Factors and Complications
Sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age - even children - but certain risk factors make the condition more likely, including being male, overweight, and over the age of 40.
Because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, the vast majority of sleep apnea patients remain undiagnosed and untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences, including putting you at an increased risk for:
- High blood pressure and heart problems
- Types II diabetes and metabolic syndrome
- Liver problems
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. The condition is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes the airway during sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea: In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the lungs to breathe.
Mixed Sleep Apnea: Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
If you experience the following signs and symptoms, talk to your SSM Health physician about whether you may have sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Witnessed periods of not breathing
- Awakening not rested in the morning
- Abnormal daytime sleepiness, including falling asleep at inappropriate times
- Morning headaches
- Recent weight gain
- Limited attention
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment
- Personality changes
- High blood pressure
After a discussion of your health history and symptoms, your doctor may refer you to an SSM Health Sleep Center for an evaluation. You may also undergo a sleep study, which is a specialized test used to diagnose sleep disorders.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will create an individualized treatment plan designed to improve your sleep. The most common treatments for sleep apnea include lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking and losing weight, and continuous positive air pressure (CPAP), a device that sends air through your mouth and nose to keep your airway open while you sleep.
The sleep specialists at SSM Health are experts at diagnosing sleep apnea. Prompt diagnosis and treatment of the condition can greatly improve your quality of life and overall health, so don’t delay asking for help if you struggle with sleep. We understand the impact the condition can have on your life and will work with you to create a treatment plan that leaves you feeling rested and ready for your day.