Sleep is a fundamental human need. Whatever your age or gender is, we all sleep at the end of the day. Losing sleep not only leaves you feeling grumpy and exhausted but can put you at risk of serious health conditions like cardiovascular diseases, among others. Sleep deprivation also speeds up aging and makes you look older than your real age.
However, it is not your fault that you lack sleep. Sometimes, conditions like sleep apnea can mess with your sleeping and that of your significant other too. While most people ignore sleep apnea, it actually is a serious condition that can require immediate medical attention.
Getting a good night’s rest is essential for good health, but people with sleep apnea aren’t able to succumb to slumber. Affecting an estimated 100 million people world-wide, obstructive sleep apnea causes episodes of stopped breathing during sleep, and the result is a fragmented, restless sleep that leaves sufferers exhausted and drowsy during the day. Here, five men and women speak about living with sleep apnea.
It is actually easy to diagnose sleep apnea because of its characteristic symptom: snoring. However, since snoring affects many people, most of us tend to brush it off aside and consider it as one of those things you have to endure in life. The sad thing about snoring, though, is that it can actually be fatal especially in the elderly.
Sleep experts agree that chronic poor sleep in general and obstructive sleep apnea in particular (OSA) in anyone, but especially in older adults, can be fatal. They say they’re heartbreaking, literally.
“I’d just like to further stress the seriousness of obstructive sleep apnea and how it can hurt hearts,” said. Dr. Raj Dasgupta, MD, a Fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) and assistant professor of clinical medicine at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC). “Research shows untreated, severe obstructive sleep apnea more than doubles your risk of dying from heart disease.”
Dasgupta is referring to a study done last year by several departments of otolaryngology, head and neck surgery and sleep medicine at Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China. The authors analyzed electronic data from some 27 studies of more than 3 million people all over the world that evaluated the associations between OSA and all causes of death, paying close attention to cardiovascular events.
Researchers found that all deaths, and specifically cardiovascular mortality, were significantly lower in CPAP-treated than in untreated patients. Thus the researchers concluded that “Greater attention should be paid to severe OSA, as it is an independent predictor for risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.” They further stated that “CPAP is an effective treatment that reduces risk of mortality.”
The risk of death is real among older people, so sleep apnea should be treated as soon as possible and can be greatly advanced with the help of a medical expert who has specialized in sleep apnea treatment.
In most cases the initial treatment approach is a combination of lifestyle and behavioral modifications including weight loss and avoidance of alcohol use at night and the use of CPAP, short for continuous positive airway pressure device. While CPAP is very effective in keeping the throat open and a great solution for some, struggling with its continued use is not uncommon.
A wealth of possible treatments from oral appliances, throat exercises, and nasal resistors (just to name) a few are available. However, some patients prefer not to use any attachments or devices while they sleep and opt for a surgical solution.
While there is no perfect solution for sleep apnea, there are different medical tools and strategies one can adopt to relieve them of this excessive narrowing of the airway during sleep. With the help of your doctor and your family, it is possible to get that good night’s sleep again without the constant bother and threat of snoring – and worse, sleep apnea. If snoring is a constant issue, get yourself tested now and explore which combination of devices and techniques will ensure that you can stop your snoring!
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