What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is broken up during sleep. Referred to as “apnea”, these lapses can cause people to stop breathing hundreds of times throughout the night.
At least 2 million Americans have sleep apnea and because it occurs while sleeping, most people don’t know they have it. It’s also difficult for doctors to detect because they can’t actually see it during a routine office visit and there’s no blood test to check for it.
When you sleep, your body rests and restores energy, impacting your mental and physical well-being. A good night’s sleep is the best way to help cope with stress, overcome illness, solve problems and function effectively at work or school. During the periods of apnea, the oxygen levels in the blood drop and a flood of hormonal reactions occur. You may wake up as many as 30 times an hour in a state of “fright” or “panic”, as if you were being chased by a wild animal.
As you can imagine, sleep apnea can take a toll on your daily routine. People with sleep apnea are five times more likely to have a serious car crash. They also may find themselves falling asleep at work. Others may complain of moodiness, depression or being irritable.
Impact on the Heart & Vascular System
Sudden drops in oxygen levels cause a rise in blood pressure and a strain on the heart and vascular system. If you have sleep apnea, your risk of high blood pressure can be two to three times higher than if you do not. In people who already have heart disease, the frequent spells of apnea can lead to sudden cardiac death. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of stroke regardless of whether or not you have high blood pressure.
Increased Risks Following Surgery
People with sleep apnea also have higher risks during and after surgery. This is because the patient is often lying flat, and many of the medications during and after surgery can interfere with breathing.
Effect on Relationships
Loud snoring can keep those around you from getting good rest and over time, could disrupt relationships. Often the partner must go to another room or area of the house to sleep. Many bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well. It is often the sleep partner who sees the signs and symptoms and sends their partner to seek attention.
Below is a list of common risk factors, as well as the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. If you are concerned that you may be dealing with sleep apnea, please contact your primary care physician about a referral or call the ASK-A-NURSE Resource Center at 913-676-7777.
Signs and Symptoms
Article: The Miracle of Sleep
Click here to read about 53-year-old Daniel Johnson who snored terrible, had trouble staying awake at work and was dealing with other health issues. After spending time in Shawnee Mission Medical Center’s Sleep Disorders Center, he saw a miraculous difference.