What Is Sleep Apnea?

Snoring and daytime fatigue are the two main symptoms of people with sleep apnea. Learn more about this common, but underestimated, health condition.

Sanaz Majd, MD,
November 19, 2015
Episode #106

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  • Snoring
  • Insomnia

  • Restless sleep

  • Pauses in breathing during sleep (often reported by the significant other)

  • Daytime napping or snoozing

  • Headache upon awakening in the mornings

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

If your doctor thinks you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you will likely need special sleep testing using a home portable monitor or in the laboratory, where they measure your airflow, oxygen saturation, and breathing.

Consequences of Sleep Apnea

At this point, you may be thinking, “So what if there are a few pauses of air flow during sleep?” It doesn’t seem like a big deal, right? Well, sleep apnea can cause some pretty serious medical consequences, including:

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart failure

  • Heart disease

  • Stroke

  • Automobile accidents

  • Increased mortality, in general

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

If your doctor diagnoses you with sleep apnea, your main treatment consists of a special mask called a CPAP that blows air into your throat during sleep. I know what you’re thinking: Who in their right mind would be able to sleep with a big mask on their face, let alone one that blows air down your throat when you are trying to sleep? Patients often complain that it’s uncomfortable and takes some time to get used to it. However, they also tell me that they are able to regain their energy level and that it truly changes their lives as a result. Learning to fall asleep with the mask seems to be a very small price to pay for what they gain in return.

Weight loss is often the second method of treating sleep apnea and should really be the ultimate goal in every patient who is overweight and suffering from this condition. It’s really your only hope in curing the sleep apnea without having to wear a CPAP mask. Some patients no longer need the CPAP once they lose the weight and a sleep retest may be indicated once at least 10% of your initial weight has been lost.

In addition, it would be wise to avoid alcohol and sleep aids since both can exacerbate the condition. And don’t forget to wear your dentures to bed!

Take Home Message

Snoring and daytime fatigue are quite common symptoms. I cannot tell you how many patients I see who suffer from fatigue and snoring, and are also overweight. My little doctor antlers light up every time I see this combination of symptoms. Sleep apnea is underestimated, and your doctor may not think of it right away. If you have these symptoms, make sure to ask your doctor about sleep apnea.

Do you think you suffer from sleep apnea?   Share it with us on the House Call Doctor’s Facebook and Twitter pages!

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

Man Yawning and CPAP Mask images from Shutterstock