She has been telling you for months to get your sleep apnea diagnosed and treated, but you have been putting it off. You have argued, “I don’t snore. I am not tired. It is just stress. I have been working too much.”
But, you have been dozing off in the recliner. You are cranky, nervous, and irritable. You are inattentive to her needs. Your sex drive is down. Your problem-solving skills, innovative ability, interpersonal skills, and your energy level are down. It is about time you listened to her and got treated. That would be the true Valentine’s day gift that will keep on giving for the rest of your life.
Sleep apnea, a serious and fatal yet severely under diagnosed disorder affects approximately 20 percent of the adult population. Snoring, daytime fatigue, witnessed apnea (cessation of respiration for more than ten seconds), morning headaches, dry throat, and waking up gasping for air are common features of this disorder, which is being increasingly recognized as a formidable enemy of a full and joyous life. It prevents the person from reaching deep and restorative stages of sleep, making the person grumpy, irritable, nervous, forgetful, inattentive, and tired.
It also increases your risk of stroke, heart attack, and early death because of nightly struggle to breathe, which causes frequent elevation of blood pressure and sustained drop in blood oxygen level while simultaneously increasing the oxygen consumption of the heart muscles. Untreated, the sleep apnea increases the risk of motor vehicular and industrial accidents. It can also contribute to erectile difficulties.
Use the STOP questionnaire to determine your risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
- S … Do you snore loudly?
- T … Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime?
- O … Has anyone observed you stop breathing during sleep?
- P … Do you have or are you being treated for high blood pressure?
If you answer yes to two or more of these questions, then you are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea, and you should talk to your doctor.
To make an accurate diagnosis, you may need an overnight sleep study in a sleep lab where your respirations, the oxygen level, heart rate, EKG, leg movements, and sleep stages will be monitored all night long without using needles. Now, there is also a convenient and economical alternative in Apnea Link, a home sleet test. Talk to your doctor about it.
The commonest and most successful treatment includes wearing a mask hooked to a machine, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which acts as a pneumatic splint and prevents your throat from collapsing at night. Weight reduction, oral appliance (a customized denture that keeps your lower jaw pulled forward), and ENT surgery are the other options.
It is extremely rewarding to be treated for sleep apnea. Patients tell me:
- “Doc, I did not know how sleepy I was until I started wearing CPAP.”
- “A hazy screen has been lifted off from my eyes.”
- “I thought it was all stress and aging, but now I feel young again.”
- “I am thinking clearer. I am planning better. I am getting more done at work and home.”
- “I have so much energy that I don’t know what to do with it.”
- “My blood pressure is better; my sugars are better controlled.”
- “I should have done this a long time ago.”
Listen to your Valentine and please talk to your doctor and get treated. It will give you a new life.
If you need additional information, please visit http://www.md4lungs.com. If you are in Michiana, please call our clinic at 574-534-9911.
Happy Valentine’s Day!