Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.
Most nights I go to bed around 11:00 pm and get up around 8:00 am, but without my alarm clock on I could "sleep" for up to 12 hours! It doesn't matter how many hours I "think" I sleep because I'm not really sleeping, but rather gasping for breath every other minute! And snoring like a old truck at the same time. No wonder I'm tired all the time!
Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million (North) Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of forty, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and healthcare professionals, the vast majority remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences.
Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, (like strokes or cardiac arrest) memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.
The specialist also told me that drinking alcohol, especially close to bedtime, can exacerbate sleep apnea. There's one good reason for not drinking except at special occasions. Plus since I'm already on high blood pressure meds, there's another reason to get this condition under control. AND I'm still having trouble losing the 7 pounds I've put on since my surgery in January. I thought that was because of lack of exercise (well, oKAY, that's part of it but now I have another
So what to do about it? First, I have to wait for a phone call from a clinic that will give me a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to try out for a couple of months. (Free!) I will then see the specialist again to let him know if it's working. If it is, then I buy the machine (and get reimbursed by my Extended Health Benefits). I also have to go to the hospital to have the entire testing done to find out if I have "obstructed" or "central" sleep apnea. The wait time for this procedure is up to 12 months! But it's important to have the test done because then they can tell whether I can get surgery to trim my palate or not. This could relieve the apnea and I wouldn't have to use the CPAP.
Let's hope! Poor Lorne has the choice of sleeping in the other room or with me looking like an alien!