October 1-7 is Sleep Apnea Awareness Week™

Physicians Health Network Health & Awareness Articles

Sleep disorders, including Sleep Apnea, have become a significant health issue in the United States. The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 22 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea and 80 percent are undiagnosed ranging from moderate to severe obstructive Sleep Apnea.

“The first week of October is important in raising awareness; the issue is series and by raising awareness concerning the dangers of untreated Sleep Apnea, we can improve the nation’s knowledge about symptoms, complications, diagnosis and treatments of this serious chronic condition,” said Alexander Villareal, MD, The Sleep Wellness Institute.

The primary objective of the Sleep Apnea Awareness campaign is to improve the nation’s knowledge about the symptoms, complications, diagnosis, and treatments of Sleep Apnea.
“Sadly, approximately 38,000 people die annually from complications caused by it. Tragically, former Green Bay Packers superstar Reggie White was one of those people who lost his life due to complications of Sleep Apnea,” said Dr Villareal. Alexander Villareal, MD, The Sleep Wellness Institute.

What is Sleep Apnea Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disorder, marked by an obstruction of the upper airway during sleep. This causes pauses or breaks in a person’s breathing, preventing air from entering the lungs and forcing the person to wake briefly to start breathing again before falling back to sleep. The interruption to breathing can occur hundreds of times a night, which causes markedly fragmented sleep. As a result, people with Sleep Apnea feel excessively sleepy during their normal waking hours. The person with Sleep Apnea is usually unaware of this. “We call Sleep Apnea a ‘chronic’ condition because it seriously disrupts the quality of sleep,” said Dr. Villareal. When breathing appears to stop or become shallow, the sleeper comes out of a deep sleep and moves to a light sleep. “This results in very poor quality sleep, causing extreme tiredness during the daytime. In fact, Sleep Apnea is one of the main causes of extreme daytime sleepiness.”Typically, Sleep Apnea can go undiagnosed for quite some time. It cannot be detected during a routine doctor’s appointment, or health check-up and there is no blood test that can diagnose it. In fact, most people who suffer from Sleep Apnea do not know they have it because it occurs during sleep: usually the person who is aware that you may have this condition is your partner, or family member.

Signs and Symptoms
There are two primary signs that a person may be suffering from Sleep Apnea. The first most obvious sign is chronic, loud, and ongoing snoring. Pauses will occur during the snoring and gasping or choking noises may follow these pauses.

The second most obvious sign of Sleep Apnea is sleepiness during the day, while driving, or at work. In this particular situation, the person will find him/herself quickly, falling asleep during quiet and inappropriate times of the day.
“Regardless of whether you feel extremely tired during the day, or not, it is important that you discuss any breathing issues you may be experiencing during sleep with your health care provider, or call the Sleep Wellness Institute for an evaluation,” said Dr. Villareal.

Other Sleep Apnea symptoms may include:
– Headaches, specifically in the morning;
– Inability to concentrate, and learning or memory issues;
– Waking up frequently during the night to urinate;
– Feeling depressed, irritable, experiencing mood swings or complete personality changes;
– Sore throat or dry mouth upon waking.

“It is also important for parents to know that Sleep Apnea can occur in children,” said Dr. Villareal. Symptoms to look for in children include hostile behavior, anger, poor performance at school, and hyperactivity. Children with Sleep Apnea are often mouth breathers, instead of breathing through their nose. If you think your child may have a sleeping disorder, talk to his/her health care provider. If the child’s provider is not familiar with children’s sleep disorders, make them aware of the Sleep Wellness Institute – we specialize in children’s sleep disorders,” said Dr. Villareal.

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is a disorder diagnosed by a physician based on symptom history, a complete physical examination and the results of a sleep study. Your doctor will evaluate your symptoms and, if necessary, will refer you to a sleep specialist, who will evaluate the results of the sleep study and develop the necessary treatment plan. Sleep specialists are doctors who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with sleep problems.
While their health care provider refers many people to the Sleep Wellness Institute, the Institute also accepts self-referrals. “If you have concerns about your sleep health, you can contact the Sleep Wellness Center directly for a sleep evaluation, or to make an appointment with a sleep specialist,” said Dr. Villareal.

What Is A Sleep Study?
A sleep study is a series of tests to measure the quality of your sleep and reactions your body may have to problems that occur while you sleep. The results of these tests will help your doctor diagnose a sleep disorder and determine its severity. The tests conducted in sleep studies are the most accurate in diagnosing Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Study Using Polysomnogram
The most common type of sleep study for accurately diagnosing Sleep Apnea is the study using polysomnogram. It records eye movements, brain activity, blood pressure and heart rate. It also records the air movement while you breathe through your nostrils, the amount of oxygen in your blood, chest movements and snoring. The chest movements are significant because they determine whether you are trying to breathe.

“Sleep studies are conducted in our sleep lab located at 1414 N. Taylor Dr.,” said Dr. Villareal. The studies are painless: you just go to sleep as usual, but will have sensors attached to your face, scalp, limbs, chest, and a finger. The staff monitors the sensors while you sleep to check on your progress during the night. “Once the sleep study is completed, I will review your results to determine whether you have Sleep Apnea and, depending on its severity determine the course of your treatment. In addition, a Polysomnogram may help determine the best setting on a Continuous Postitive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. These machines are the most common form of treatment for Sleep Apnea and helps keep your airways open using mild air pressure while you sleep. “The most important thing a person needs to keep in mind is that this chronic potentially deadly condition is easily treatable,” said Dr. Villareal. Individuals with excessive sleepiness suffer from drowsiness, reduced concentration, and an overwhelming desire to sleep when they need to be awake. This leads to changes in mood and personality and a general reduction in quality of life. “In getting diagnosed and treated for this condition, a person will enjoy a much higher quality of life and, if the condition is severe, eliminate the time bomb that is ticking during their restless sleep.”