What is Sleep Apnea?
The Greek word "apnea" literally means "without breath." There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed; of the three, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common. Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly awakes sleep apnea victims from sleep in order for them to resume breathing, therefore sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality. Sleep apnea is very common and affects more than twelve million Americans. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences. Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.
How is Sleep Apnea treated?
There is currently no proven drug therapy for sleep apnea. However, there are 4 basic approaches to treatment, which are not mutually exclusive: 1. Modification of circumstances which may be causing sleep...