MEDICAL MATTERS: What’s keeping you up at night

Is your snoring loud enough to be heard through closed doors? Do you feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the day? Do you nod off at stop lights, or during conversations? Has anyone seen you stop breathing, choke, or gasp while sleeping? Do you have high blood pressure? Are you overweight? Is your shirt collar sixteen inches or larger? Are you male? Are you fifty years of age or older?
If you answered “yes” to three or more of these questions, then you could be at high risk for something called obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. OSA happens when the throat collapses during sleep and your breathing is reduced, partially or completely, at intermittent intervals throughout the night.
Sleep is so important because it affects every aspect of your life, from general well-being to insulin metabolism, heart health, and even thinking and brain function. OSA is associated with excessive daytime sleepiness, work and motor vehicle accidents, headaches, erectile dysfunction, insomnia, diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. It increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, memory and concentration deficits, and death.
Snoring affects at least forty percent of men and twenty percent of women, and it often accompanies sleep-disordered breathing like OSA. In fact, about twenty percent of men and ten percent of women currently live with sleep apnea.
Don’t hesitate to seek treatment. Nowadays, OSA is often diagnosed overnight in the comfort of your own home and bed with a home sleep apnea test. If you are diagnosed with OSA, there are many treatment options available depending on the severity and type of apnea. OSA and other forms of sleep apnea can be treated with simple actions like weight loss, changing sleep position, wearing an oral appliance at night, CPAP, and surgery. CPAP is a machine that adds soft air pressure into the nose or mouth through a mask during sleep to keep the airway open. CPAP technology has advanced significantly in the last several years, and the machines are much quieter and more comfortable now than they used to be. Treatment can often progress without a trip to the sleep lab.
Treating OSA is important. You should be very careful driving and operating machinery if you have untreated sleep apnea. Weight gain, smoking, alcohol, sleeping pills, and other medications that make you drowsy and make sleep apnea even worse. Treating sleep apnea improves many symptoms and lowers many risks associated with OSA.
If you believe you have sleep apnea, call and schedule a consultation with Dr. Joshua Levinger at MCH ProCare at 432-640-6360. Dr. Levinger treats all general ear, nose, and throat problems, and specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, including home sleep testing, CPAP, and surgical management.