Sleep apnea, along with its most common symptom, snoring, is more than just an annoyance. Some evidence suggests sleep apnea increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, possible heart failure, stroke, abnormal heart rhythm (atrial fibrillation) and heart attacks.
Understanding sleep apnea
If you have sleep apnea, your breathing typically pauses for more than 10 seconds at a time—more than 20 times an hour—while you sleep. Then, each time you return to normal breathing, you may make a loud snoring sound. Snoring that is regular with each breath is normal but an irregular pattern that is interrupted by gasps and a few deep breaths, is problematic. These interruptions may be a strong indication that you have sleep apnea. These interruptions are often recognized by a partner who is awakened by loud snoring and gasping for air.
Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Excess body weight, especially in the shoulder and neck
- A collar size of 17 or more
- Large tonsils
- A family history of the condition.
Sleep apnea and heart disease
Sleep apnea increases your risk of heart disease due to lack of oxygen. When your oxygen level drops, your carbon dioxide level increases. Your brain senses trouble and tells your body to release adrenaline-like substances into the bloodstream—the so-called fight-or-flight reflex. These substances, as well as the release of others that can eventually damage the lining of your body’s blood vessels, might eventually cause or worsen high blood pressure and other forms of cardiovascular disease or heart problems that include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure
- Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- Coronary artery disease
To accurately diagnose sleep apnea, a
patient’s sleep patterns are recorded in overnight or daytime studies and analyzed using state-of-the-art technology. Holy Redeemer Sleep Disorders Center
, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, offers advanced, comprehensive services and the most current diagnostic and treatment techniques available to help identify and treat a wide-range of sleep-related issues.
The Sleep Disorders Center is staffed by board-certified pulmonary physicians, neurologists and otolaryngology physicians. Studies are monitored by an experienced staff, which includes registered sleep and respiratory therapists. Our team uses the latest equipment and conducts studies in a relaxing, hotel-like atmosphere—complete with queen-sized beds—in the sleep lab. Our team collaborates to diagnose and treat the following:
- Sleep apnea
- Heavy snoring
- Restless leg syndrome
- Other sleep-wake cycle disturbances
If sleep apnea is diagnosed, treatments include CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), which involves wearing a mask at night that blows air into the nose to keep it open; a custom-fit mouthpiece to advance the jaw and tongue and keep the airway open; or, surgical intervention.
If you have very mild sleep apnea, try avoiding alcoholic drinks at bedtime, losing weight, and sleeping on your side instead of your back. But if you suffer from more severe sleep apnea, successful treatment can contribute to your heart health and make a huge difference in your daily life
The evaluation and treatment of sleep disorders is covered by most insurance companies (HMOs will require a physicians referral).
For more information on the Holy Redeemer
Sleep Disorders Center or to make an appointment with a sleep disorders specialist, call 215-938-3448
between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
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