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Exhausted? You Could Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Updated on June 23, 2014
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Exhausted? You Could Have Sleep Apnea

Are you tired? I mean really tired. Do you go to bed at night and wake up more tired than when you were when you went to sleep? Are you a restless sleeper? Do you snore? Do you wake up with morning headaches? Do you have high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes? If you answered yes to any of these questions you may be one of the millions of people who suffer from sleep apnea. A simple quiz may help you find out.

What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is recognized as a respiratory condition that affects breathing during sleep. To break it down: apnea means to stop breathing, obstruction means that the breathing is blocked, and sleep is when it happens.

People with obstructive sleep apnea experience some sort of obstruction of the airway while they sleep. This obstruction blocks the airway restricting breathing or stopping it altogether for a few seconds. When this happens it interrupts sleep. Your body recognizes that your breathing is compromised, and it stimulates you to wake up and resume proper breathing. Now you may be saying to yourself “but I don’t wake up during the night.” It sometimes happens only for seconds so you may just briefly wake up and go right back to sleep. This occurs throughout sleep, and in some people with extreme obstructive sleep apnea this happens a hundred or more times a night! This can be caused by many different factors.

Obstruction of Airway Restricting Breathing
Obstruction of Airway Restricting Breathing | Source

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Complications of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Besides a poor night’s rest obstructive sleep apnea may also lead to several life threatening issues. When you stop breathing during sleep your body reacts by triggering the “Fight or Flight” reaction. Basically this reaction is your body’s defense against attack. It puts the body on alert and fights for life. Since those with sleep apnea either stop breathing for short periods or breathing slows considerably the body considers this a life threatening event and responds.

Blood pressure increases and the heart pumps faster as the body tries to send oxygenated blood throughout the body. Since suffers may stop breathing many times during the night this can occur over and over through the night. Eventually this can lead to chronic high blood pressure and heart disease.

Obesity can also be a side effect of obstructive sleep apnea. Since sleep apnea leaves suffers tired they are often less active. This decrease in activity can lead to weight gain. Sadly as weight increases it can worsen obstructive sleep apnea leading to even less restful sleep.

"Carpaccio V." by Carlo Naya
"Carpaccio V." by Carlo Naya | Source

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Causes

So how do you get obstructive sleep apnea? That is a good question. Obstructive sleep apnea can be caused by several things. One is obesity. Excessive fatty tissue in the neck can obstruct the airway.

You do not need to be obese or even overweight to have obstructive sleep apnea. Sometimes the tongue gets in the way of the airway or other issues of the mouth. People who have a deviated septum may experience obstructive sleep apnea. Enlarged tonsils or other soft tissue can also obstruct the airway. If you believe that you have sleep apnea your doctor can help you to determine the cause.

Quiz

So you are wondering if you may have obstructive sleep apnea. There are two popular quizzes that you can take to indicate if you may have obstructive sleep apnea. The first is the Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the second is the Berlin Sleep Questionnaire.

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale

The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is used to determine how likely you are to doze off or fall asleep in a specific situation. Use the following number scale to rate each of the situations below:

0 = No chance of dozing

1 = Slight chance of dozing

2 = Moderate chance of dozing

3 = High chance of dozing

Situation
Chance of Dozing
Sitting Reading
 
Watching television
 
Sitting inactive in a public place (meeting, movies, doctor’s office)
 
As a passenger in a car after an hour without a break
 
Lying down in afternoon when circumstances permit
 
Sitting and talking with someone
 
Sitting quietly after lunch (without alcohol)
 
In a car while stopped for a few minutes in traffic
 

Check Your Sleepiness Score

1 - 6 = Congratulations, you are getting enough sleep

7 - 8 = Your score is average

9 or above = You should consult your doctor or a sleep specialist, you may have sleep apnea

Berlin Questionnaire

Another quiz to determine the likelihood of sleep apnea is the Berlin Questionnaire. Here is a link to the American Sleep Apnea Association where you can answer the questions on the Berlin Questionnaire http://www.sleepapnea.org/assets/files/pdf/Berlin%20Questionnaire.pdf.

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How did you do? If your quizzes reveals that you may have sleep apnea what do you do next?

Good News

The good news is that obstructive sleep apnea is treatable. With treatment you can get a good night’s sleep, reduce fatigue, get more energy, and even reverse high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. The first step is obtaining an accurate diagnosis. Take your Epworth Score Test and/or Berlin Test results to your primary care doctor. Explain your symptoms and discuss whether you should be tested for obstructive sleep apnea. This is done during a sleep study.

Testing for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

A sleep study, technically called polysomography, is a test that monitors your breathing, heart rate, and neurological function while you sleep. This is typically done at night. You will go to a sleep test center, sometimes located at your local hospital, and a technician will attach wires to you. Don’t be alarmed, but there will be lots of wires. You may be asking yourself “how will I ever sleep wired up like that?” Don’t worry. The test is painless and most people find that they do eventually fall asleep. The technician will monitor your brain waves, breathing, and heart function through the night. You leave in the morning, and receive the results of your test from the pulmonologist or neurologist who reviews your test results.

If you do have obstructive sleep apnea you may need to go back for a second sleep study called a titration. During this visit the technician will initiate CPAP therapy to resolve your sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Sufferer Wearing CPAP Mask for Treatment
Sleep Apnea Sufferer Wearing CPAP Mask for Treatment | Source

Treatment: What is CPAP?

CPAP stands for continuous positive airway pressure. It is a fancy way to say an air blower. Essentially a CPAP machine is a little compressor. It blows air at a particular setting. The idea is that air pressure from the CPAP machine will be used to maintain your airway open while you sleep. The air acts as a splint to keep the airway from becoming obstructed. No obstructions means that your sleep is not interrupted and you get a restful night’s sleep!

During the titration the technician will fit you with an airtight mask, either over your nose or nose and mouth. Corrugated tubing is attached from the mask on your face to the CPAP machine. You will go to sleep with the mask on, and the technician will test to see how much air pressure it will take to keep your airway open while you sleep. They will use as little air as possible to maintain the airway open.

Hope

Obstructive sleep apnea robs millions of people of a restful sleep every night. They wake up exhausted and fight for energy to get through the day. Some have complications such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or diabetes. Still there is hope. With treatment obstructions can be reduced or eliminated leading to a restful sleep. Once obstructive sleep apnea is resolved the body can begin healing. Many people find that their high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes improve following treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. More rest means more energy during the day. With more energy people become more active and lose weight. There are many benefits to resolving obstructive sleep apnea beyond a restful sleep.

Take the quiz to see if you may have obstructive sleep apnea. If your test reveals that you are at risk take the results to your family doctor. You and your doctor can decide if you should have sleep study and if CPAP therapy could help resolve your sleep related issues. With proper treatment you can finally get the sleep that you have been dreaming of.

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    • NancySnyder profile image
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      Nancy Snyder 2 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I am glad that you enjoyed the article!

    • howcurecancer profile image

      Elena@LessIsHealthy 2 years ago

      More than useful! Thanks!

    • AMAZING THINKER profile image

      AMAZING THINKER 4 years ago from Home

      Thanks Nancy! I'll keep that in mind.

    • NancySnyder profile image
      Author

      Nancy Snyder 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Hi Amazing! A visit to your primary care provider is a great place to start. Obstructive sleep apnea can often be relieved with treatment; patients gain the rest they need and improvement in their other related conditions. I hope that your mother finds some relief from her symptoms.

    • AMAZING THINKER profile image

      AMAZING THINKER 4 years ago from Home

      My mother shows most of the symptoms you mentioned. She only told me when I mentioned them to her. She'll visit the doctor tommorow. Thank you so much!