What is Sleep Apnea?
If you have trouble sleeping, or are feeling tired most days of the week, you may have sleep apnea--a common condition affecting approximately 29.4 million adults in the United States, when breathing is interrupted during sleep. Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, pauses in breathing from a few seconds to a minute, gasping for breath, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and you might feel tired even after a full night's sleep. If you feel you may have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about a sleep study to determine if you have this condition, as it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression if left untreated.
Types of Sleep Apnea:
- 1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) - this is the most common type of apnea and occurs when the soft palate and muscles in the throat relax causing the airway to be blocked or obstructed. Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea
- 2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) - although this type is rare, it is more common in people older than 60. In CSA, the diaphragm and chest muscles fail, causing a cessation of breathing and a drop in blood oxygen levels.
- 3. Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA) - This type consists of obstructed periods with shorter periods of central sleep apnea.
Talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist if you are experiencing trouble sleeping. He or she may suggest that you have a sleep study, which can help diagnose a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea or narcolepsy. During the study, a special machine is used to monitor your sleep.
Who Needs a Sleep Study?
If you have sleep problems that last longer than a few weeks, you may need a sleep study. Talk to your healthcare provider. Be prepared to answer questions about your health history. Try to keep a daily sleep diary for a week or 2. Write down the time you go to bed, the time you wake up, and anything that seems to affect your sleep. Then your healthcare provider can refer you to a sleep specialist and recommend a sleep study.
What can I Expect During the Study?
Your sleep can be monitored at a sleep clinic or at your home. In either case, your healthcare provider will discuss the results with you at a future visit:
At a Sleep Clinic: Most sleep studies are done at a sleep clinic or sleep lab. In many cases, you will need to stay overnight. You will sleep in a private room, much like a hotel or hospital room. A family member or a friend can come along, but cannot stay overnight. Most people don’t have trouble sleeping during the study. In the morning you can go home. Sometimes you may be asked to remain at the lab the next day for a daytime nap study.
At Home: At times, a sleep study can be done at home. A home sleep study provides most of the same information as a study done at a clinic. A special computer is loaned to you by a sleep clinic or a medical supplier. You will be given instructions on how to use it. Or, someone may come to your home to help. Before bedtime, the computer is turned on to monitor your sleep all night. In the morning, you return the computer.
Sleep Aids Your Doctor May Recommend:
If you have sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) for use while you are sleeping. Using a CPAP machine can improve your quality of sleep and the quality of sleep for those around you, and also improve other health conditions you may have. You can take control of your sleep apnea by enrolling in our Sleep Apnea Management Program.
Wellness Program & Support
Lifestyle changes such as weight loss and elimination of alcohol before bedtime may decrease the severity of the apnea, but other treatments such as sleep masks and surgery may be required to effectively manage the disorder. If you or a family member are having sleep troubles, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York can help. Click below to find out how to enroll in our Sleep Apnea Management Program with our Respiratory Therapist.