Sleep Apnea

υπνική άπνοιαWhat is sleep apnea syndrome?

Sleep apnea syndrome is a condition which leads to cessation of breathing for short periods during sleep. There are 2 types of apneas. Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. When one suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, the cessation of breathing usually is because there is narrowing of the inside of the neck or close the mouth. In central sleep apnea, cessation of breathing happens because the brain is not sending the right signals to the muscles of respiration. When one refers to the syndrome of sleep apnea, usually means the first category, ie obstructive sleep apnea, the issue addressed by this article, too. People with sleep apnea usually do not know about their problem. However, they sometimes wake up with shortness of breath and intense need for air. Also, they are told from their spouse that they snore.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea syndrome?

The main symptoms observed, include severe snoring, daytime sleepiness and tiredness during the daytime. Patients can also experience the following:

  • Restless sleep
  • Frequent awakenings with a strong desire for breathing
  • Morning headache, dry mouth and sore throat
  • Frequent awakenings to urinate
  • Feeling that sleep was not enough or did not offer relaxation
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory disorders

Some people with sleep apnea are not aware of their symptoms or may find it normal that they often feel tired or that they snore.

Should I visit my doctor if I have sleep apnea syndrome?

Yes. If you think that you have sleep apnea syndrome, you should be evaluated by your doctor.

Is there a test to diagnose sleep apnea syndrome?

Yes. If your doctor suspects that you suffer from sleep apnea syndrome, he should suggest you to do a test called “sleep study”. The sleep study can be performed in the patient’s home or in a sleep laboratory or clinic. The patient sleeps as usual, but with various cables attached to him, so that various measurements are recorded, such as heart rate, breathing and other body functions. The results will help your doctor tell you if you do suffer from sleep apnea syndrome.

Is there anything else I can do to reduce my symptoms?

Yes, there are several measures that someone can take, like the following:

  • Avoid the supine position during sleep. (This is not always practical because you can not control your posture after having slept. It also helps a minority.
  • Lose weight if overweight.
  • Avoid alcohol because it exacerbates apneas
  • Avoid, if possible, sedatives at bedtime because they exacerbate apneas.

What is the treatment of sleep apnea syndrome?

The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a device that keeps the airways open during sleep. This is called CPAP, which is the acronym: Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. People using the CPAP device, wear a mask on their face during sleep, through which they breathe. If your doctor tells you to use a CPAP device, try to be patient and show persistence in treatment. The face mask may initially seem like an uncomfortable and noisy device, but once you get used to it and tolerate it, the benefit of your health is great. Patients with sleep apnea syndrome using the CPAP device generally feel better and more relaxed.

There’s also a device called “mouth device”, which keeps the airways open during sleep mechanically. In unusual cases where none of the above measures  helps, your doctor may recommend you a surgery for opening your airways. However surgery is not always effective, and also there is the possibility for recurrence.

An innovative system works with a small pacemaker completely inside your body with your natural breathing process to treat obstructive sleep apnea. While you are asleep, the pacemaker delivers mild stimulation to the hypoglossal nerve, a nerve that controls the movement of the tongue and other muscles in the airway. In that way, obstruction of the airway is getting improved effectively.

Is sleep apnea syndrome dangerous?

Yes, it can be. Patients that do not receive adequate and high-quality sleep, often feel tired and weak. As a result, they are at increased risk for traffic accidents and other kind of accidents in general. Moreover, they get predisposed to hypertension, heart problems and strokes. Persons receiving treatment for the syndrome, eg CPAP device, reduce their chances of experiencing the previous conditions.

For more information: