Insomnia continues to become an epidemic in the United States. There are many causes of insomnia including anxiety, hormone insufficiency such as perimenopause, elevated cortisol, or decreased melatonin, restless legs, or fibromyalgia to name a few. What about obstructive sleep apnea?
Before you say, ‘Oh, that can’t be me’ think again.
One in 5 adults are affected by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Up to 80% of cases that could benefit from treatment remain undiagnosed. Obstructive sleep apnea is a partial or complete collapse of the upper airway during sleep. This leads to frequent apneic or hypoanneic events. Apnea is when the upper airway completely collapses for at least 10 seconds and causes a persistent effort to breath or catch your breath. Hypoapneia is when you have a partial upper airway collapse with at least a 30% reduction of airflow and reduction in oxygen. That can’t be good!
So how do you know if you have obstructive sleep apnea?
Well, this condition increases with age, with a high prevalence in people older than 65 and primarily in men. Signs and symptoms include high blood pressure, large neck circumference, obesity, awakening with choking, atrial fibrillation (irregular heart rate), snoring, daytime fatigue and sleepiness. OSA has been linked to depression, anxiety, increased car accidents and impaired daytime function.
Research has also shown an increased incidence of high cholesterol, increased risk of cardiovascular events, the formation of blood clots (which can lead to stroke) atherosclerosis and the development of metabolic syndrome.
A sleep study is the best diagnostic test. Treatment is positive airway pressure therapy and has shown a significant reduction in blood pressure. Other modalities include oral appliances fitted by trained dentists, or orthodontists, weight loss, topical nasal steroids and smoking cessation. Effective treatment reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and pre-diabetes.
Just think of how many prescriptions you could save if you found that OSA was one of the causes of your high blood pressure, high cholesterol, irregular heart beat, metabolic syndrome and insomnia. That’s at least 4-5 prescriptions and alot of supplements! Plus you’ll sleep better and have more energy during the day.
Ask your practitioner if you have risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea and get tested. It will help you feel better during the day and at night.
Reference: Dodson, K. Cardiovascular Effects of Sleep Apnea. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, Vol. 4, Number 6. June 2008, p. 439-444.