What is sleep apnea, and do I have it? What are the symptoms, and how can it be treated? What are the consequences if left untreated? Where can I go for help?

Okay, let’s answer the sleep apnea question. What is it? Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that affects people while they sleep; most times without their knowing it. They actually stop breathing for short periods of time repeatedly during the course of a night’s sleep. Breathing may stop 10-100 times per hour, and may not start again for a minute or longer. This deprives a person not only of sleep, but also oxygen. This is a very serious twofold condition.

First of all it is a health hazard. Second approximately 20-25 million people suffer from sleep apnea and don’t even know it. In a study of 30-60 year old men and women, it was found that 24% of men and 9% of women had signs of sleep apnea. In another study, 87% of truckers had signs of sleep apnea. This is a potentially dangerous situation. Left untreated, truckers can fall asleep at the wheel and the results could be fatal, not only to the trucker but also to the innocent victims as well. A study shows that every time a trucker dies behind the wheel, 4.3 innocent victims die as well.

What are the Symptoms?

One of the obvious signs of sleep apnea is very loud snoring that stops and starts in an unrhythmic manner during the night. The sufferer experiences irregular snoring, snorts, gasps, and other unusual breathing sounds during sleep. Also, the snorer seems to suffer in any position, though some snore only on their backs.

The person with sleep apnea pauses in breathing during sleep. Breathing is irregular at certain time during sleep and the sufferer may hold his breath for long periods of time. This is called an apnea episode or apnea event.

Excessive daytime sleepiness or EDS is yet another symptom of sleep apnea. The most common complaint is that people claim they get too much sleep. EDS develops mainly from poor sleep. The person is interrupted during the night by repeated apnea episodes.

Fatigue is another symptom of sleep apnea. Rather than feeling as though you want to fall asleep, the person has a sense of feeling exhausted and drained. Because the symptom has been present for years and has gotten progressively worse, the sufferer is not aware that they are more tired than usual. This is not normal.

Obesity is another common problem for people with sleep apnea. Sleep apnea makes the weight problem worse, and in like manner, the excessive weight makes sleep apnea worse. Losing weight will usually help sleep apnea, but often times the apnea will have to be treated first.

Changes in alertness, memory, personality, and behavior are another symptom of apnea. These signs are usually accompanied by a gradual shift in napping habits, energy level, productivity, or mood and disposition, which are noticed by your family and friends.

Other symptoms of sleep apnea are impotence, morning headaches and bedwetting.

Health Problems from Sleep Apnea

Auto accidents very common among people with sleep apnea. Almost 20% of sleep apnea patients admit falling to sleep at the wheel and having had auto accidents as a result.

Breathing, circulation, heart problems and other cadiovascular and pulmonary problems are results of sleep apnea, and over a period of time can become life-threatning. The cardiovasular effects of sleep apnea have resulted in death.

Other health problems that can occur as a result of sleep apnea are work performance where you may fall asleep at work, home and social life, psychological and memory problems, and irritability.

What are the Consequences?

If left untreated some of the symptoms sleep apnea can cause are:

The Causes of Sleep Apnea

After loud snoring has began, then all of a sudden, the snoring stops, the person’s chest stops moving, and he’s not breathing, oxygen cannot get into the lungs and neither can carbon dioxide get out. The person’s blood begins to drop and carbon dioxide increases and the person slowly suffocates.

There are three kinds of sleep apnea:

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

First and foremost, for treatment of any apnea problem, it must be properly diagnosed. The type of sleep apnea you have will depend on the type treatment. Some diagnosis have been mistaken for sleep apnea, therefore it should be referred to a specialist at an authorized and accredited sleep center.

Some treatments for sleep apnea are:

Also refer to other related sources such as...


Where to get Help

Start by finding a certified sleep specialist. The American Sleep Disorders Association (ASDA) establishes standards for an accredited sleep center, sleep specialist, and sleep disorders. Its parent organization, the Association of Professional Sleep Societies, coordinates the publication of journals and sponsors conferences on sleep disorders. A physician may earn his sleep specialist credential by passing a certification exam given by the American Board of Sleep Medicine, at which time he becomes a Board Certified Sleep Specialist (BCSS).

Find an accredited sleep center. The ASDA will mail you a booklet listing over 250 sleep centers in the United States. Send a long self-addressed stamped envelope to:

American Sleep Disorders Association, 1610 14th Street NW, Suite 300, Rochester, MN 55901-2200 or you can call at (507) 287-6006.

American Sleep Apnea Association,ADAA 1424 K Street, NW, Suite 302, Washington, DC 20005 202-293-3650 fax 202-293-3653. e-mail

Credits and acknowledgements...Demos Vermande publishers, who published the book, "SNORING AND SLEEP APNEA, PERSONAL AND FAMILY GUIDE TO DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT 2nd edition", where my information was gathered.





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