Monthly Archives: January 2015

Sleep Apnea Risk Factors

sleepy manBetween 30 and 50 million people in the United States have some form of sleep apnea, and more and more people are being diagnosed with it each year. As awareness of the condition grows, people begin to wonder whether or not their sleep problems could be symptoms of sleep apnea. For those who are searching for answers, we decided to provide a little bit more information about what those with untreated sleep apnea may feel like.

Before we start, it is worth mentioning that many of the traits common in sleep apnea are present in other sleep disorders as well. Untreated sleep apnea sufferers feel tired throughout the day, but the same could be said of insomniacs; there are many sleep disorders, and it’s impossible to accurately diagnose what your exact problem is without a sleep test. Likewise, you should also know that the presence of snoring – the principle symptom associated with sleep apnea – is not always an indication of sleep apnea. Many people without any sort of sleep disorder snore all night long, so the mere presence of snoring should not give you the impression that you have a medical issue. It is only when you see a pattern of symptoms, or a particularly severe symptom, that you should consider seeking medical attention.

Feeling Unrested

There are a number of symptoms that a sleep apnea sufferer may feel throughout the day, but they all come back to a feeling of unrest. Those with sleep apnea are likely to feel unbearably tired throughout the day: it is not unusual for such a person to fall asleep at their desk or worse, while they’re driving. They will likely nap often, and they may even dip into sleep in the midst of a conversation. Likely, they will feel irritable off and on throughout the day, and this particular symptom may cause some emotional distress if they sense that their personal relationships are deteriorating. Not every person with sleep apnea will feel so dramatically tired, but most do feel fatigued often and many try to nap regularly.

Snoring

Tired young businesswoman falling asleep behind the deskWe talked about this briefly already, but while someone with sleep apnea almost always snore, the reverse is not true. Mild snoring is perfectly normal, and even the occasional spell of heavy snoring is not unusual in people without any sleep problems. Severe snoring, however, could be an indication of a problem. People with sleep apnea will often snore extremely loudly in an effort to get air through their windpipes and into their lungs. This snoring is characterized by excessive volume and the occasional cessation of breathing, periods that can stretch upwards of thirty seconds. The primary emphasis here though is the frequency and the volume of the snoring: people with sleep apnea snore every night, and they do so at an impressive volume. One of our customers even reported waking up hotel guests in adjacent rooms not just once, but twice!

In Children

It may seem unfair, but many children have sleep apnea too. In addition to the symptoms above, many children with sleep apnea may also exhibit symptoms of hyperactivity. Sleep apnea prevents people from progressing through a natural sleep cycle, and as such, certain hormones and enzymes aren’t released properly. For some children, this perversely affects their ability to regulate their temperament and ability to stay calm. Many children with sleep apnea are also short in stature: unable to sleep naturally, their bodies are unable to release growth hormones that allow them to reach their projected height.

Again, these are just some of the prevalent symptoms associated with sleep apnea. If you feel that many of these apply to you – particularly the groggy feeling throughout the day coupled with excessive snoring – you may want to seek medical treatment. If you do feel this way, don’t panic: there are treatment options available, and you will be able to feel better almost overnight!

Horrible Sleep: The Sleep Apnea Story

sleep-apneaThe alarm rings and you feel horrible again. You can’t believe that it’s already 6:30, but the clock never lies, and it’s time to prepare for work. Climbing out of bed, you experience your daily head rush, and nearly walk into the wall on your way to the bathroom. After a quick doze in the shower, a pot of coffee helps wake you up, but it’s fleeting relief. By 10:30 your palms have already caught your head twice, and you’ve even snuck in a five minute nap when nobody was looking. Sure, it’s Tuesday, but you just can’t understand why you feel this bad.

For people with sleep apnea, mornings like this are frustratingly common. Those with severe sleep apnea feel like this nearly every morning, and neither going to bed early nor sleeping in offers any panacea. To help sleep apnea sufferers understand why this happens, we’re going to dive into the science behind apneas, discussing why people get them and what’s preventing them from getting that elusive good night’s sleep.

Upper Airway Collapse

More than 90% of patients with sleep apnea suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. Most commonly, OSA occurs when the soft tissue that lines the upper airway collapses. This can happen for a number of reasons: overweight people and athletes with large necks often exert more force upon their diaphragm during sleep than the tissue can withstand, while others have narrow airways or other genetic predispositions to apneas.

These obstructions make it difficult for people to breathe. The body never stops trying to breathe, but the obstruction prevents the flow of air. This causes people to gasp for oxygen – the source of the loud snoring, sleep apnea’s defining characteristic – which can happen upwards of 100 times per night. As you might imagine, the lack of inflowing air causes a number of problems in the body: oxygen levels plummet and CO2 rises. Over time this can lead to a number of debilitating health conditions, including heart attack and stroke.

Why You Don’t Remember Waking Up

Oftentimes, patients are shocked when they discover that their sleep apnea has caused them to wake up frequently throughout the night. Sleep apnea sufferers often have no recollection of waking, and wonder how they can possibly wake up so often. The answer is simple. When a person sleeps, they progress through different stages and levels of sleep. When a person is “awoken” by an apnea they don’t completely wake up: they simply revert back to a previous stage of sleep.

Stages-of-Sleep12Primarily, this occurs as the patient drifts into REM sleep. During REM, the body becomes completely paralyzed and muscles become less responsive. This makes it difficult for the patient to keep their airway open. As the neck muscles collapse, the size of the airway restricts, causing the patient to wake up slightly in an effort to get air. This lifts them out of the much-needed REM sleep, essentially re-starting their sleep cycle. Without adequate REM, people are unable to get into the deep sleep the body requires for reinvigoration.

Treatment

If these symptoms describe your life, there are a few things you can do to get your life back. For those who are a bit heavy, a diet and regular exercise can help you shed some weight and potentially take pressure off of the soft tissue muscles in the throat. Some patients also experience some relief with a new pillow, or by sleeping on their side instead of their stomach or back. Sleep apnea can also occasionally go away entirely without reason, although this normally happens to younger people.

Usually, you’ll need to try a more lasting form of therapy. Some patients opt for some form of surgery on their throat or jaw, and in certain cases, these operations can prevent the onset of apneas. Frequently, however, these surgeries are painful and expensive and don’t solve the fundamental problem or treat the symptoms patients are experiencing.

In most situations though, use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine and mask offer the most reliable form of sleep apnea therapy. By comparison to surgery, CPAP is inexpensive and un-obtrusive. It may take patients a little while to adjust to therapy, but it is a tried and true solution to sleep apnea. In use for three decades, CPAP has been studied time and time again, and proven to be a reliable form of therapy. If you need help for your sleep apnea, consider using CPAP for a new lease on life.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

We’ve talked in the past about how serious sleep apnea can be. We’ve also discussed how the disease continues to be woefully undiagnosed in the majority of potential patients, and increasing awareness is one of our main goals on our blog. If untreated, patients with sleep apnea are at an increased risk for things such as heart disease and diabetes, while also being less effective with day to day activities due to lack of sleep. I want to discuss some of the signs of sleep apnea, and if you’re suffering from any of these, we recommend that you talk to your primary healthcare physician and seek a sleep study as soon as possible.

One of the biggest indicators of sleep apnea is snoring. You might hear from your friends or loved ones that you are an unusually loud snorer at night, and that when you’re breathing in and out it’s almost like your throat is closed. If you have sleep apnea, there’s a collapse going on in the throat, which can lead to increased sound decibels while you sleep. Not only is this an indicator for sleep apnea, but it probably keeps your bed partner, roommates, or family members who share your house awake at night. Not everybody who snores has sleep apnea, and not everybody with sleep apnea snores, but have your friends or loved ones listen closely to you while you sleep, and if they recommend you ask your doctor, do it!

If you wake up with a throat that is either extremely sore or very dry, it’s possible you have sleep apnea. Keeping your mouth open throughout the night can lead to your throat drying out, causing some discomfort in the morning. It’s also possible that your throat can dry out even if you’re only breathing through your nose. If diagnosed, we recommend using a heated humidifier and potentially a heated tube while wearing your CPAP machine, which will help eliminate this effect by warming the air that comes through your tube.

Being tired throughout the day, or lacking energy to accomplish even the simplest of tasks isn’t A Poor Sleeperjust a sign of sleep apnea, it can have huge effects on your performance at work or school. If you’re one of those few who gets the recommended eight hours, yet still are having trouble performing, it’s possible you’re suffering from sleep apnea. Going to bed earlier just so you can sleep longer might not be the effect, as most likely you are waking up several times throughout the night without even noticing, which is having huge effects on your sleep schedule. Getting eight hours of sleep is not going to cut it if you’re not actually sleeping for the full eight hours! Struggling to be effective with daily activities is going to have negative impacts on your life and career, so not only should you consult your doctor and get a sleep study done for your long term health, you should do it to further your career!

Lack of sleep can also cause morning headaches that some might mistake for migraines. While headaches can be caused by numerous different things, if you’re suffering from snoring or lack Sleeping with Untreated Sleep Apneaof sleep and always tired, while experiencing headaches, it’s time to get tested for sleep apnea. One of the biggest issues we encounter is the lack of knowledge by the professionals. If you find this page and are thinking about going to your doctor, mention that you believe you may be suffering from sleep apnea, as it might be time to get yourself tested. The only true test will be a sleep study, whether done in your own home through an at home test, or going to a sleep study center, just because you may be suffering from one of the following does not mean you definitely have sleep apnea, there are other causes to all of these things, so make sure you get properly tested before trying to purchase and use a CPAP machine, as the therapy may not be what you need!

I am going to bullet some of the other potential signs of sleep apnea, and I will include the ones I have already mentioned, so you can get a thorough list of items without having to read through hundreds of my words!

  • Loud snoring, your friends and loved ones may say it sounds like you’re struggling to breath
  • Having an extremely dry or uncomfortably sore throat in the morning after sleep
  • Waking up during the night because you’re choking or gasping for air
  • Lack of energy during the day
  • Falling asleep while driving or simply watching TV
  • Headaches in the morning
  • Restless sleep
  • Forgetting things, having severe mood changes, and even a decreased interest in sex

All of these things can be found on WebMD’s page about sleep apnea. You can also find links to side effects of sleep apnea, and I have written about those before, but again some of the more serious ones include the following:

  • Heart disease which can lead to a heart attack, see Reggie White
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Headaches
  • Diabetes

If you believe you’re suffering from any or all of the above, please seek treatment immediately so we can continue to fight this disease, and continue to make sure that the roughly 80 percent of undiagnosed patients can get the proper information from their doctors and start sleeping better!

Respironics EasyLife CPAP Mask: A Different Kind of Comfort

blgoimageWhen patients buy a CPAP mask, they’re looking for a few different things from their investment. At its core, the mask is the most important part of CPAP therapy, and so patients are looking for a mask that works. They need the mask to fit onto their face, and they need to be able to attach it seamlessly to their machine. The mask must not leak and it has to be washable, so that therapy can be conducted hygienically. But for CPAP therapy to be effective in the long run – and for the patient to continue therapy for as long as necessary – the mask must also be comfortable.

Patients looking for the most comfortable fit have a number of directions to turn. The new AirFit series offers a soothing cushion in a lightweight body while the ComfortGel Blue, long the most popular mask at RespShop, comes with a gel cushion that conforms to your face comfortably without sliding off. Some patients, however, dislike the ComfortGel Blue and are concerned that super light masks won’t have the durability to stay on their face throughout an entire night of therapy. For these people, we have a solution: The EasyLife from Respironics.

The EasyLife is a nasal, dual-cushioned CPAP mask designed to fit on your face easily. The butterfly-shaped headgear features intuitive and soft straps, which makes attaching, wearing, and detaching the mask easy. The mask’s unique Auto Seal function gives you the peace of mind that you’ll be getting the very most out of your therapy, and the comfortable cushion all but guarantees that you won’t wake up with stretch marks on your face, or any other unwanted symptoms commonly associated with an ill-fitting CPAP mask.

The most important feature of the mask is the dual-layered cushion. Unlike most nasal masks, which have a single cushion that conforms to your skin around your, the EasyLife’s dual-layered cushion offers you enhanced comfort and protection. The inner layer of the cushion attach to the skin just outside of your mouth: the cushion here is soft and a bit loose, meaning that it won’t brush against or chafe your skin. The seal is maintained by the outer cushion, which presses against your cheeks and offers a second line of defense. By placing this cushion outside of the first, it has a more uniform surface of skin to apply to, reducing the chance that your skin will become irritated by the cushion. Additionally, the second cushion offers more protection against mask leaks and augments your chances of making it through the night without losing air from the mask.

The rest of the mask is designed with comfort in mind as well. The straps are soft and the nasal bridge of the mask has been designed to allow you a full range of vision, ideal for patients who like to read or watch television before they drift off to sleep. Simply put, the EasyLife is one of the more comfortable masks on the shelves at RespShop: if you haven’t found the perfect CPAP mask for you yet, consider trying the EasyLife from Respironics.