Sleep is a time for your body to be at rest. Having a sleep disorder like sleep apnea has the opposite effect on your heart, brain and body. Sleep apnea can be mild or severe and may exist with or without snoring. You might first have suspected sleep apnea when waking up feeling tired and groggy even after an eight-hour sleep. There are three types of apneas:
- Obstructive: caused by a blocked airway from the throat closing or the tongue falling back into the throat.
- Central:The airway is open but the body does not communicate the need to breathe
- Mixed: A combination of both types.
The brain will go into a ‘fight or flight’ mode when it does not receive adequate oxygen. Frequent drops in oxygen trigger the release of stress hormones. Your brain registers the lack of air and wakes you in order to resume breathing. That may happen with a loud gasp or snoring noise that your partner hears during the night. People with sleep apnea may wake up more than a hundred times a night without knowing it. You may think you’re resting all night long, but you may be undergoing a battle to breathe instead, leaving you tired in the morning.
Health Concerns and Symptoms
All of those pauses in breathing are hard on your heart and make it hard to get enough rest.
If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause:
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Daytime drowsiness
- Weight gain
- Decreased memory
What Can Be Done?
It’s important to get a sleep study done to determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea and the severity of the problem. The sleep study will measure your blood oxygen levels to determine if an oxygen drop contributes to your nighttime wakening. Once diagnosed, your doctor will be able to tell you whether you will benefit best from wearing a dental appliance, using a CPAP (continuous positive pressure) machine, or taking medication.
Support groups are also helpful. That’s why the American Sleep Apnea Association came up with AWAKE, which stands for “Alert, Well, and Keeping Energetic.” This nation-wide support program offers both sleep apnea patients and their families. During meetings, the group focuses on medical issues that affect people with sleep apnea, such as treatment options or the link between obstructive sleep apnea and stroke. Starting in 2011, St. Petersburg General Hospital will be hosting regular AWAKE meetings.
To give attendees a preview, SPGH is inviting the community to a Sleep Lab Alumni and AWAKE Sleep Disorders Support Group gathering. On Tuesday, November 16, 2010, you and an adult guest are invited for hors d’oeuvres at 5:30. Dr. Rajesh K. Agrawal will be the guest speaker. If you’d like details about the event, or want to RSVP, please call 1-877-442-2362.