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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where the person stops breathing several times during sleep. There are two kinds of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. 1
Central Sleep Apnea – Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center. 2
My Personal Story
In early 2011, I began feeling tired even when I had just awakened from a night’s sleep. I felt groggy all day and just didn’t seem like I had adequate rest. It really became apparent when I couldn’t remember the 25-minute drive to work. Then it escalated to me actually falling asleep while driving. This scared me into action. I contacted my doctor and told him what was going on. He scheduled an overnight sleep study.
The sleep study consists of two parts. A machine with sensors monitors the sleep pattern, brain activity, and even restless leg syndrome of the patient. A doctor (in my case a pulmonary doctor) receives the results: how many times I stopped breathing and if I ever reached REM. With these results, the doctor is able to recommend a setting for the CPAP machine.
The second part of the overnight sleep study is the monitoring of the settings recommended by the doctor. The results are reviewed to confirm the recommended settings. After confirmation of the settings, a prescription is written for a CPAP machine and CPAP supplies i.e. filters, hose, and mask. The CPAP machine is programmed with the required settings specified for the patient.
I struggled in the beginning with having to wear the mask and being hooked up to the machine. I’ve gone long periods of time without using it. Only to have my symptoms come back. I’ve now accepted that this is a part of my life. If I lose weight, I may or may not be able to lose the CPAP machine. The most important aspect of this to me now is making sure I get quality sleep so I don’t endanger the lives of my children or other people on the road with me.
Many people believe this is an overweight person’s problem. I know a total of four people who use a CPAP machine. Two of those people are not overweight.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over age 40
- Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
- Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems 3
If any of these symptoms sound familiar to you, please speak to a medical professional. Make sure you’re an advocate for your health and ask for a sleep study.
1 2 3 “Sleep Apnea.” Web blog post. Sleep Apnea. WebMD, Web. 26 July 2017.