Over 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, a disorder in which non-breathing episodes occur during sleep, sometimes several hundred times per night. Although sleep apnea seems to be more common in seniors (40 percent of all people over age 60 develop the condition), anyone at any age may develop sleep apnea. If not detected and properly treated, sleep apnea can progress in severity and become life threatening.
A routine medical exam cannot reveal the main symptoms of this illness because the patient’s respiration remains normal while awake. Proper diagnosis of the severity and type of sleep apnea can only be determined by special monitoring of the individual’s sleep.
- Loud irregular snoring, snorting or gasping for breath
- Sudden body movements before the person starts to breathe again
- Excessive sweating during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Complaints of restless sleep
- Personality changes
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This is the most common type of apnea and is caused by an obstruction in the throat caused by the tonsils, uvula, fatty tissue or involuntary muscle relaxation that blocks airflow during sleep.
Sleep apnea can generally be treated very effectively once it is properly diagnosed. Treatment options may include the following:
- Weight Loss
- Nasal CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) a device worn over the nose that is attached to a machine that provides compressed air, helping to keep the airway open.
- In more extreme cases, surgery may be required to remove airway blockage.