Let’s Talk about Sleep Apnea

A Severe Problem Caused by Something Most Don’t Talk About

Today we’re going to talk about something most people don’t. Occasionally family members do but it doesn’t come up in conversations with others especially those we don’t know well. Very simply, . . .

. . . Most of Us Snore

Some people rarely snore and only do when they have a cold or nasal congestion.

Others snore several times during every night. It may even be a cute little low quiet snore.

A small group snore very loudly and almost continuously through the entire night. It sounds like a freight train coming through the house. Those who snore this way keep not only their spouse up but also their children in other bedrooms.

Why am I bringing this up – a subject that’s taboo in normal conversations? Simply because of a sever problem it can cause.  That is . . .

. . . Sleep Apnea

If you’ve never heard of it, don’t feel bad. Most people haven’t,

What is it?

Sleep apnea is a severe condition where the person stops breathing for a short period of time due to an obstructed airway.  When they snore, these people will stop breathing multiple times during the night.  With most chronic snorers, this can happen as many as 30 times an hour.

When Breathing Stops, . . .

. . . the level of oxygen in their blood drops and the level of carbon dioxide rises. Needless to say – this is bad. Not only doesn’t the person with sleep apnea not get the proper rest they need and are tired most days, they also can suffer from other medical problems. These are

  • Obesity
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Chronic heart failure
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • dementia
  • Strokes, and
  • Other cardiovascular problems.

In some instances, people with sleep apnea can have trouble concentrating, staying focused during conversations or following story lines in television shows.  When this occurs in older people, others including medical professionals will sometimes wrongly believe it is the start of dementia.

By the time they reach 60 years of age, 60% of men and 40% of women snore.

20% of People Over 60 Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The problem is most are unaware of it.  At this point in their lives many are living alone. Their children are grown and have moved away. Their spouse may have died or they may be divorced. They have no idea of how severe their snoring is.

Again – an obstructed airway causes sleep apnea. They only way to determine how severe the problem is by having a person take a sleep study. At one time a sleep study could only be done in a hospital or a special clinic. Now it can be done right in their home.

Types of Treatment

For those who have obstructive sleep apnea, the type of treatment is based on how severe the condition is.

If the person just snores mildly and infrequently, getting them to sleep on their side or to wear a nasal strip at night may resolve it.

In some instances, apnea occurs because the person is overweight. A weight management program may help.

Here are the types of treatment for more severe cases:

  • An Oral/Dental Device
  • A Continuous. Positive Air Pressure therapy (CPAP) machine
  • Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation (HGNS).
  • Surgery

A CPAP machine increases the air pressure in the patient’s throat so their airway does not collapse when they breathe in. Most machines come with a mask the patient wears. It covers their nose and mouth while they are sleeping. The air pressure created by the machine flows through the mask.

Not all people can use a CPAP machine. Others find the machine cumbersome. They don’t like the restriction it places on them. So, they eventually stop using them.  So, a new technique has been developed.  It is Hypoglossal Nerve Stimulation (HGNS).

The Hypoglossal nerve runs from a person’s brain stem through their neck to their tongue.

HGNS is like a pacemaker for the tongue.  A device is implanted in the person’s chest. A lead wire runs from it to the hypoglossal nerve. The person turns it on when they are going to sleep. It stimulates the tongue muscles so they don’t relax and obstruct the airway. The person turns it off when getting up in the morning.

HGNS is not cheap. The device itself costs around $20,000. In addition, there is a separate charge for the surgery.

The last option is surgery to remove the cause of the problem. This may be surgery to remove the adenoids or tonsils or surgery on the tongue, the soft palate or uvula or on the upper or lower jaw.

Are You an Older Person? Is Snoring a Problem for You?

You may not know. You live alone and you don’t realize your snoring is waking you up at night.  One sign snoring may be a problem for you is you always feel tired during the day or you don’t feel you get as much sleep as you need each night. Another sign is you find yourself nodding off several times each day.

If you experience either of these, mention it to your doctor. He may suggest a sleep study to see if you are suffering from sleep apnea,

If you have an older parent or parents who live alone and say they are tired all of time or appear to be, suggest they talk to their doctor about this. You want to make sure they don’t have obstructive sleep apnea.

Whenever obstructive sleep apnea is present, you want to make sure you or the person with it gets the right treatment so they won’t develop one of the more severe conditions it can cause.

If you have any comments on what you have read here, I’d like to hear them. So, please email them to me. Also – if you have any ideas about subjects you would like o to see discussed in future posts, please send me an email and let me know. My email address is bob.ooablog@gmail.com.