The Greek word apnea literally means “without breath” and describes the loss of breath that someone who suffers from the disorder experiences. It is common for people to experience hundreds of apneas a night where the airways are blocked by the soft tissue in the throat collapsing or the brain failing to send the correct signals to the breathing muscles.
The most common form of sleep apnea is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the throat relaxes and partially blocks the airway causing airway restriction leading to waking up and being out of breath.
Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Excessive tiredness and sleepiness during the day
- Waking with a dry mouth and/or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Frequent awaking accompanied with feelings of being out of breath
- Irritability and erratic mood swings
- Inability to focus
- Loss of memory
Sleep apnea is diagnosed using a variety of methods and information such as:
- Family and Medical History
Healthcare providers will as a series of questions concerning family and personal medical history. They will also want to find out about sleeping patterns and associated symptoms caused by sleep apnea.
Many times people have to acquire the assistance of a family member, spouse, or friend because they are not aware of their behaviors while asleep. Some people keep a sleep diary for 48 hours to gather data that will assist the doctor.
- Physical exam
The physician will typically examine the neck and throat for causes of blockages such as enlarged and swollen uvula. The uvula is located near the back of the throat and is a piece of soft tissue. Physicians also look at the soft palette which is located at the back of the throat on the roof of the mouth.
- Sleep study
If a physician needs more information for a proper diagnosis and feels more information is needed they will refer the patient on to a sleep specialist for a sleep study. Sleep studies are typically performed at a sleep center, but may take place in the patient’s home. The most common sleep study test is the polysomnogram.
CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure and is a treatment device that is used for patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea. The device is a mask-type machine that fills the air passages with a continuous air stream that works to keep air passages open and clear while sleeping. Many baby boomers who suffer from sleep apnea have found relief using a sleep apnea machine.
Benefits of Using a CPAP
Users of CPAP machines have reported significant improvements in sleep apnea symptoms. Some of those improvements include:
· Better quality of life
· Improved sleeping at night
· Increased mood happiness
· Better job performance
· Enhanced sexual drive
· Increased alertness when sitting or driving
· Improved energy
· More motivation
· Elimination of snoring
CPAP Side Effects
As with most medical treatment side effects may occur. Some of the most common side effects experienced by CPAP users include:
· Dry nasal passages
· Red marks around the nose
· Sinus congestion
· Eye dryness
· Mouth dryness
If you are a baby boomer and you suspect you or your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea see your health care provider immediately.