Obstructive Sleep apnea (OSA) is a severe sleep disorder that happens when an individual's breathing is obstructed while sleeping. Individuals suffering from sleep apnea experience unregulated breathing that can prove to be fatal if not treated on time. This happens when the brain and other body parts do not get enough oxygen. The first thing a person should do after experiencing difficulty in breathing while sleeping is to see a Pulmonologist / Sleep Specialist and get all the relevant tests done.
Dr. Inder Mohan Chugh, Director and Head, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Shalimar Bagh,
New Delhi, reveals a list of 10 surprising facts about sleep apnea:
1. More Men Than Women Have This Disorder
The chances of developing sleep apnea are more common in middle-aged men when compared to women. However, women can too develop it; but their risk to develop this disorder increases only after they reach menopause.
2. OSA Can Be Life Threatening
Sleep apnea can lead to dangerous complications if left untreated. Some of these major complications include irregular heartbeat, stroke, heart failure, blood pressure, diabetes and heart attack. Sleep apnea can also enhance the risk of developing depression and can impact relationships, both at home as well as work.
3. Snoring Is Not the Only Symptom
Even though loud snoring is the most noticeable sign of sleep apnea, it is certainly not the only symptom. Other common symptoms include feeling excessively sleepy during the daytime, snoring followed by choking and gasping sounds, mood swings, morning headaches, and trouble focusing.
4. OSA Can Lead to Weight Gain
Sleep apnea can make a person gain weight as many people tend to eat to stay awake. This leads to weight gain and makes a person more prone to suffer a heart attack, diabetes or a metabolic syndrome.
5. OSA Is Often Undiagnosed
Sleep apnea is a common under-diagnosed disorder because the majority of individuals believe that going to bed and falling asleep immediately signifies good sleep. However, it is not a healthy thing; people who can fall asleep anywhere at any time may have sleep apnea.
6. OSA Induces Fatigue
One of the reasons why sleep apnea is often overlooked is because its symptoms are extensive. Beyond sleep disruptions, a person may start feeling tired and rundown during waking hours. This becomes an everyday occurrence and proves to be harmful to their health. It may even lead to accidents caused by dozing off at inappropriate times.
7. OSA Is Common Among Children Too
Sleep apnea tends to affect 1 out of every 10 children. In the majority of cases, the signs are mild, and the child eventually outgrows it. However, in some cases, the child may start to have behavioural troubles or severe medical issues because of it.
8. OSA Can Be Diagnosed in Sleep Lab
After conducting a physical exam, the doctor can suggest a Sleep Study Test, which can be done in a Sleep Lab in a hospital or at home. The sleep study looks at sleep statistics such as breathing, chest movements, oximetry and heart rate, etc.
The best way to diagnose sleep apnea is by undergoing full night sleep study (Polysomnography), with audio-visual recording, in the sleep lab. MAX Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, New Delhi, has the most advanced Sleep Lab (Alice-6) for accurate diagnosis with Omnilab- Philips, for best treatment modalities, and is conducting sleep studies regularly by trained sleep technologists, under the supervision of Pulmonologist and Sleep Specialists.
Another way to monitor sleep is by keeping a sleep diary for a few weeks to note when a person sleeps and wakes up.
9. There are Treatment Options for This Disorder
Wearing a continuous positive airflow pressure mask, which is also known as CPAP while sleeping is the main and most effective treatment for people with moderate to severe sleep apnea. This machine helps in keeping the upper airway passages open so that a person breathes easily while sleeping.
10. Lifestyle Changes Can Improve It
For a sleep apnea patient, adopting healthy lifestyle practices can make a difference in the quality of their sleep if they have sleep apnea. People suffering from sleep apnea should quit smoking and alcohol, avoid using sleeping pills, cut back on soft drinks, and avoid using sleeping pills.
It is immensely crucial for people with sleep apnea to practice good sleep hygiene. They should reserve the bedroom for sleep only, make sure the temperature is comfortable, limit the screen time before bed and put off all the lights before sleeping.