What You Need to Know About Sleep Apnea

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In honor of Better Sleep Month, we'd like to help you better understand one of the most common sleep disorders - sleep apnea.  From defining the disease to the diagnosis and treatment, the professionals at Greene County Medical Center are here for you.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a result of muscle relaxation in the back of the throat.  When these muscles relax, the airway narrows, potentially causing the throat to close while sleeping.  When the brain realizes that breathing has ceased, it sends signals to rouse you from sleep to reopen your airway.  This routine results in choking, snorting and gasping for air throughout sleep.  Because of this constant interruption during the night, individuals tend to feel drowsy during their awake hours.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea results from a variety of contributing factors.  The following risk factors can increase your chance of having sleep apnea.

  • Genetics: Some individuals have a naturally smaller airway that can cause sleep apnea.  A family history of sleep apnea is also a contributing factor.
  • Age: Generally, sleep apnea is more prevalent in older adults.
  • Sex: Men are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea as women.  However, weight can lead women to higher chances of sleep apnea.
  • Weight: As previously stated, weight can cause a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.  Fatty deposits located in and around the throat can inhibit breathing.
  • Smoking: Smoking causes an increase in inflammation in the airways, making it difficult to breathe.  Quitting smoking dramatically decreases your risk of sleep apnea.
  • Medications or Alcohol: These can cause the muscles to relax in your throat, which can lead to sleep apnea.

Symptoms and Treatment of Sleep Apnea

Patients with sleep apnea are likely to exhibit abnormal sleeping habits, causing daytime fatigue and exhaustion.  For treatment from Dr. James Meyer and our respiratory therapy staff, schedule an appointment today.

"Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a syndrome characterized by snoring and repetitive closure of the upper airway, resulting in decreased airflow while sleeping.  It results in excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue and puts patients at risk of developing many disorders, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart problems, strokes and dementia," states Dr. James Meyer, a UnityPoint Clinic pulmonologist/sleep specialist.  "The diagnosis is generally made in the sleep lab, showing apneas (cessation in airflow) and hypoxemia (low oxygen levels)."

If you're suffering from sleep apnea, reach out to the experts at Greene County Medical Center.  We're here to care for you.