Snoring, or Obstructive Sleep Apnea? It’s no snorting matter!

Photo Courtesy: Banderas News

Out of breath while seemingly sound asleep, your partner’s simple snore or a snort could be stemming from Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Does this sound funny? I’m afraid it isn’t… neither the causes nor the consequences. Sleep Apnea disturbs and affects over 12 million people in the US, as indicated by the NIH – National Institute of Health. This problem is not gender specific – 2% women and 4% men over age 35 may be afflicted by OSA.

Repeatedly, during a full night’s sleep, affected people literally stop breathing for almost 30 seconds each time, several times through the night. When they breathe again it may even sound like a snort! Try holding your breath for 30 seconds – you’ll understand what I mean.

Primarily, Sleep Apnea is caused by complete or partial obstruction of the airway. Muscles in the region of the base of the tongue collapse to an extent that they obstruct the air passage. The brain then signals the individual after each apnea event to breathe again, and normal breathing resumes. Frequent apnea disruptions cause disturbed sleep and consequently prevent the individual from reaching the REM/rapid eye movement sleep, which is essential for the body to rest and replenish its strength.

Age, weight gain, loss of muscle mass; in men, hormonal changes leading to structural changes in the upper airway; nasal congestion, smoking, are some of the risk factors associated with Sleep Apnea. Receding chin, hypothyroidism, substance and alcohol abuse may also lead to this serious sleep disorder.

While middle aged persons are more likely to suffer from Sleep Apnea, it is likely to strike children as well. Cardiovascular illnesses, memory problems, impotency and headaches may also develop as a result of OSA, if left untreated. Mixed Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea are the other types of Sleep Apnea.

The good news for snorers and for their partners, is that treatment is available. A Sleep Study Center where the person is monitored overnight determines whether the case is actually one of Sleep Apnea, or whether it is a simple case of snoring. It is important to note that not all snorers suffer from Sleep Apnea. Generally, a Primary Care Physician, a Pulmonologist, or even a Dentist may recommend a sleep study, given the symptoms. Treatment Options can be then discussed with the doctor… positional therapy, weight loss, alcohol and substance abstinence, oral appliances, surgery and CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure).

However, before you dash off to make an appointment for a Sleep Study, do ensure that your medical insurance covers you for such a test and treatment. Research the facilities and specialists who offer to do the studies before you take the plunge. If you’re not covered the costs may prove to be prohibitively expensive… you could be out of your depths!


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