The symptoms of disordered sleeping aren’t always easy to identify. It’s common for people with sleep disorders such as sleep apnea to think the excessive tiredness they feel is normal or “just a part of life.” Often a spouse notices their partner struggling with snoring and periods of not breathing while sleeping.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which individuals stop breathing during sleep for 10 seconds or more at a time, according to Sarah Hussain, MD, DSM, medical director of the Sleep Center at Sycamore Medical Center. Because it’s not always easy to identify, many people do not seek relief through treatment. Individuals, who snore loudly and wake up snorting, gasping or choking, find themselves dozing off easily when sedentary.
In addition to allowing a person to wake up feeling more rested, treatment for sleep apnea is essential to treating other underlying medical conditions proactively. Dr. Hussain sees the largest number of referrals from cardiologists whose patients may have underlying sleep apnea in addition to their cardiac conditions.
“Sixty to 70 percent of those who have been diagnosed with atrial fibrillation have underlying sleep apnea,” Dr. Hussain says. “In patients with congestive heart failure, 70 to 80 percent have sleep apnea.”
Patients with psychiatric conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder, also commonly have sleep disorders, including insomnia.
“Treating the underlying sleep apnea helps patients achieve more restful sleep and to have more energy during the day time, keeping them alert and more active,” Dr. Hussain says.
Helping the patient to feel better is a major goal of sleep apnea treatment. According to Dr. Hussain, treating sleep disorders helps patients maintain a healthy body and mind.
“As the patient ages, mild sleep apnea may get worse,” Dr. Hussain, says. “If they do have comorbid conditions and sleep apnea, then heart attack, stroke, and even death are possible if the sleep apnea is left untreated.”
Most referrals come from cardiologists or primary care providers. The treatment process starts with diagnosing sleep apnea through a sleep study.
“While examining patients during the sleep study, we have diagnosed other conditions like cardiac arrhythmias, seizure disorders, and hypoxia related to lung conditions,” Dr. Hussain says.
After diagnosis, Dr. Hussain suggests patients make certain lifestyle modifications to provide them with relief. Most often, patients will be advised to moderate their diet and exercise to promote weight loss, as excess weight can complicate sleep apnea during stages of deep sleep.
“Treatment depends on the severity of sleep apnea and whether or not they have underlying comorbid conditions,” Dr. Hussain says.
Some patients may use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The goal of treating sleep apnea is to achieve restful, uninterrupted sleep and keep normal oxygenation while sleeping.
There are many ways to treat sleep apnea and sleep specialists can assist from diagnosis through treatment. To learn more, call 1-855-400-7533 (SLEEP).