Study Links Obstructive Sleep Apnea And Blindness

Sleep Apnea and Blindness

In recent news, a study conducted by the Taipei Medical University has definitively linked having sleep apnea with a high risk of developing blindness in the form of glaucoma (an eye disease which results in loss of vision or blindness).  For the first time ever, researchers were able to link the two conditions in people aged 40 and over.

After studying more than 1000 patients, the nationwide study concluded that having obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) was a strong risk factor for developing “open-angle” glaucoma.   This type of glaucoma is typically slower in developing, meaning it takes years before symptoms may appear.  As a result, people who are at risk of potentially losing vision or going blind entirely may not realize until the later stages of the disease.

The study’s researchers are urging for all sleep apnea specialist and clinicians to talk to their patients about glaucoma and the risks associated with the disease.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology also recommends that everyone over the age of 40 get an eye exam from an ophthalmologist to reduce the chances of developing glaucoma later in life.

A Press Release on the study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology can be found here.

 

 

 

 

 

12

CPAP Mask Rash

Rash From CPAP MaskI’ve had the strangest problem.  I was just in the bathroom washing my hands at work and I noticed that I have a big red rash on my face where my Simplus full face mask sits while I sleep!

I’m not sure when or how it appeared, it certainly wasn’t there when I left the house this morning, but it’s there now.  I’ve been struck by CPAP mask rash.

I think I know what happened.

Shaving and CPAP Masks

Last night before bed I decided to shave.  I find that when I have cleanly shaven skin my mask gets a better seal and my AHI is reduced slightly.  Also, I must admit, it saves me time in the morning during my mad rush to get ready for work and get out the door.  One subtle difference in my shaving routine last night though, I used a new skin care product –  an after shave gel to cool my skin.

Clearly, the silicon of the Ssimplus mask has some kind of reaction with the after shave and irritated my skin while I slept.  The rash doesn’t hurt really, my skin is a bit more tingly than normal and a little itchy now that I think about it, but it’s not burning or anything like that.

The bigger problem, of course, is that I look a bit silly with this red rash ring around my mouth.  Nobody has commented yet and I’m about two hours away from finishing work for the day, I’ve got one telephone conference and a half hour meeting to get through without being completely embarrassed!

Obviously, the lesson learned from this episode is that I need to make sure that I don’t use any skin care products on my face before I use my mask and go to bed.  My wife is going to give my CPAP mask a really good scrub today to make sure there’s no residue on it and exacerbate the problem while I’m sleeping tonight.

Hopefully, this silly looking irritation goes away overnight, I’d hate to wake up in the morning with it again.  Has anyone else had a similar problem?

3

Resmed Gecko Nasal Pad Review

Review of Resmed Gecko Nasal PadMy first few nights wearing the Philips Respironics Amara mask was really quite painful.  I was getting a great night sleep with the mask and CPAP therapy was obviously working for me, but I was having to wear the Amara mask so tightly that it was causing swelling and blistering on the bridge of my nose.  By the fourth day, it became clear that I needed to find a solution because the bridge of my nose was bright red and very painful.

The ResMed Gecko Nasal Pad

We decided to go to a few pharmacies that we knew stocked CPAP equipment and supplies.  After thinking about things like band-aids and nasal strips, we found the ResMed Gecko Nasal Pad in a pharmacy close to our house.  I had read mixed things about it, but I was in need of relief so I bought it right away.

The Gecko Nasal Pad is effectively just a clear silicon strip that sits on your nose to form a slightly cushioned barrier between your mask.  The silicon softness and tackiness serves as a good material for this type of application and I was quite keen to give it a try.

On the positive side, the Gecko Nasal Pad did exactly what it was meant to do.  My nose felt so much better after just one night and by the third or fourth morning, the redness and irritation were gone entirely.  Cleaning the Gecko is a snap; run it under some hot water with a bit of baby shampoo and you’re done.

Downsides of the Gecko Nasal Pad

The big thing I was concerned about with this kind of barrier between my face and the mask were obvious leaks.  I’d say about 80% of the time the seal was great and there were no problems with leaks, but every now and then the nasal pad would cause air leakages into the corner of my eyes.  I’d then need to remove the mask, reset the nasal pad and put the mask back on.

The biggest flaw with the Gecko Nasal Pad is that it doesn’t really adhere to your face, it sort of balances precariously on the bridge of your nose and you use the mask to pin it to your face.  I was able to put on my mask by myself if I was laying on my back, but standing up was a challenge – I didn’t like the fact that putting my CPAP mask on at night had become a team sport.

Another problem was if the nasal pad slipped slightly or wasn’t in the right place when you put the mask on.  In this circumstance, you can end up with a piece of silicon touching the corner of your eyelid and if you have long eyelashes, it can be quite annoying.

When I switched to my Fisher and Paykel Simplus mask I was able to abandon the pad because the Simplus doesn’t irritate my nose at all.  With that said, if you have irritation or blistering on the bridge of your nose, then the ResMed Gecko Nasal Pad is something I highly recommend because it did work for me!

Do you have one of these nose pads or maybe another solution?  Leave a comment below telling us about it!

Type 2 Diabetes and Sleep Apnea – New Study Finds Link

Sleep Apnea and DiabetesPeople with sleep apnea, especially obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), are used to being told that they are at a greater risk for a number of conditions and even fatal problems (such as cardiac death).

However, a new study has shown that people with Type 2 Diabetes are also at a higher risk for developing OSA.  The link between Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea was explored in the study conducted by the University of Texas Family Medicine Center*.  The study surveyed a group of adults over the age of 18 who had Type 2 diabetes, and they were given questions based on a number of factors such as socio-demographic and economic information, their medical history and type and number of medications.  To determine their risk of OSA, study participants were asked to complete a Berlin Questionnaire, which is a simple set of questions widely used throughout the US to determine risk factors for the condition.

The results were as follows:

  • Almost 13 per cent of participants had already been diagnosed with OSA
  • The remaining participants were classified as being at a “high risk” of developing OSA in the future.
  • Overall, patients who were aged less than sixty were at an even greater risk of developing the condition.

Finally, two interesting points that we noticed from the study into Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea – patients who were considered to be at risk of developing depression, or who had symptoms of depression were more likely to develop OSA, and the gender of the participant had no bearing on the risk levels for OSA.  It seems apparent that further studies into the link between depression and sleep apnea definitely seem warranted.

*Source: Cass AR, Alonso WJ, Islam J, Weller SC. Risk of obstructive sleep apnea in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Fam Med. 2013 Jul-Aug;45(7):492-500

2

Philips Respironics Amara Mask

Philips Respironics Amara MaskThe first CPAP full face mask that I took home from my supplier was the Philips Respironics Amara Mask.  We tried the Fisher & Paykel Simplus like I was fitted with at the hospital during my overnight sleep apnea study, but when we applied pressures above 12 cmH20 the mask just couldn’t get a good seal for some reason whereas the Amara seemed to work straight away and was comfortable.

Features of the Respironics Amara Mask

The Amara is a very good quality mask and it came with very comfortable headgear that held the mask nicely on my face without riding or sliding up.  The locking mechanism for the headgear is well made but can be a little tough to snap into place when you’re not used to it.  The face mask comes away from the frame easily enough for cleaning and maintenance without being flimsy.  The silicone seal has this balloon-like action that adds a layer of comfort when you get the mask to fit properly.

For me, the mask did a good job, but it was not without its shortcomings.

Problems With The Amara Mask

First of all, the leaking into my eyes was problematic.  I had to really tighten the straps very securely to make the mask get a snug seal and not leak air while I slept.  During my first week, this caused a pretty nasty irritation on my neck.  I managed to persevere, but it is easy to see why some people give up on CPAP treatment when the masks are a problem.

Secondly, the mask caused pretty bad bruising and irritation on the bridge of my nose.  By the end of the second night using the Amara, my wife and I had to go out looking for some kind of bandage or something to stop the bridge of my nose from blistering.  We went to a drug store locally that we knew carried CPAP equipment and masks and found the ResMed Gecko Gel Nasal Pad – this resolved the bruising issue right away but added an extra element to the whole process of wearing the mask.

Finally, my statistics while wearing the mask weren’t great.  Don’t get me wrong, I was sleeping much better, but my AHI was still hovering around the eight to eleven mark most nights and my leaks were around 50 l/min.  Before going on CPAP therapy my AHI was over 70, so the Amara was working great, just not perfectly.

There were other elements to the mask that didn’t really do much for me or were a bit of a nuisance.

The padded forehead with adjustable slider to move the mask closer or a bit away from your nose didn’t really do much for me.  I had to tighten the mask so much that the pads were compressed and actually caused me discomfort.

Probably the two most annoying elements to the Amara had to do with condensation.  The condensation would pool in my mask while I slept and occasionally I would inhale it which would wake me up coughing.  Also, the ventilation would whistle while I was asleep most nights.  I later read that this was caused by turbulence being created by the humidity around the vents.  We tried all sorts of humidification and heating settings with the F&P Icon machine and could never get it right.

Obviously, results will vary depending on your face shape and a number of other factors.  And despite these problems, I stuck with the Philips Respironics Amara mask for just over a month.  It is a very well made and solid mask, it just wasn’t perfect for me.

7

Fisher & Paykel Simplus Mask

Fisher Paykel Simplus Full Face MaskWhen I did my sleep study in the hospital, the first mask that they tested me with was the Fisher & Paykel Simplus Mask.  The sleep technician said that this new mask was getting great results for most people they’d tested it on and that it was now the first one they tried for anyone who needed a full face mask.

Within a couple minutes the technician had me strapped in and we were testing the mask with some pressure from the machine.  This was the first time I’d ever worn a CPAP mask and it was very comfortable, I didn’t find it unnerving or distracting at all.  Most importantly, there were no leaks and we had a good seal!

That night I slept really well in the sleep clinic and despite a few “first time” issues with the mask, we had a pretty good result and the next morning the technician told me she was recommending to doctor that I use the F&P Simplus when I started my CPAP therapy at home.

Trying The Fisher & Paykel Simplus Full Face Mask At Home

When it came time to go to the CPAP supplier and pick up my trial equipment we tested out the Simplus.  Strangely enough in their offices, we couldn’t get a seal, and the Simplus was leaking significantly into my eyes.

Fast forward a few weeks and having tried a few other masks, I asked the equipment supplier if we could try the Simplus again.  We went through the fitting this time and it worked a treat – I think during the initial fitting in the supplier’s office they tried a medium size mask rather than the large and it may have been too small.

The first night I got the Simplus home I put it on, adjusted the straps and fell right to sleep.  I woke up the next morning feeling refreshed and no pain or discomfort on my skin from the mask.  My AHI and low leakage numbers confirmed that I’d had a good sleep and no issues with the mask.

The Simplus was easily the most comfortable mask I’ve worn to date.  The mask fits securely without being too tight and causing marks or bruises – bruising and blistering across the bridge of the nose can be a real problem with some masks, but not this one.

The headgear on this mask is my favourite set that I’ve tried to date.  The straps are easy to adjust even while lying down, so if you find a small leak or something in the middle of the night, you can quickly adjust the velcro straps without having to get out of bed.  One minor problem that I have is that I sometimes find the lower straps ride up the side of my neck a bit during the night, but that’s easily fixed and is probably more to do with my face shape than anything else.

Cleaning The Simplus CPAP Mask

The clips on the Fisher & Paykel Simplus Full Face Mask make taking it on and off a breeze.  It has a very nice “catch” system that is secure when engaged but very easily removed with a quick flick of the wrist.

The mask is also incredibly easy to clean and service because the frame and the mask come apart and clip together so easily.  You can literally remove the mask from the frame with one hand and snap it back in place just as quickly.  The frame has been designed to work with all three sizes of masks: small, medium and large. I clean the mask in the morning with warm water and a little Baby Shampoo. I haven’t tried the CPAP cleaning wipes that you can buy online just yet but will post a review of these when I do.

Having tried masks from all of the major suppliers of CPAP masks, I am convinced that the Fisher & Paykel Simplus is by far the easiest to use and most comfortable CPAP full face mask on the market today.

Fisher Paykel Icon+ CPAP Machine

Fisher & Paykel Icon+Right from the moment I realized I was probably going to need a CPAP device, I knew that I wanted the Fisher & Paykel Icon+ CPAP Machine.  Even while I was in the sleep clinic getting my sleep studies done, I was playing around with the demo unit in the room and reading all of the literature they had available on the machine.

Why?  Well, what captivated me was just how stylish the F&P Icon was.  It looks like a really cool clock radio/CD player that you’d happily have in your bedroom sitting on the night table.  The other machines looked like medical devices and while I know that’s exactly what they are, I can’t help but think why do they have to look like that.  And the truth is, they don’t.  Fisher & Paykel has proven that you can mix contemporary design and deliver a really good CPAP machine.

Fisher & Paykel Icon and Icon+

First of all, let me say that this review will really cover both the Icon and the Icon+.  What’s the difference, I hear you ask?  Well, the Icon+ is the next generation replacement model for the Icon, but functionally, they’re pretty much the same.  When I rented the machine for the first four weeks of my CPAP therapy, I rented the Icon.  Then after visiting my doctor after about a month, we decided it was time to purchase.  When I turned up at my CPAP supplier’s office, they told me that the Icon+ had just arrived that morning and the Fisher & Paykel rep had taken away the older Icon models – lucky me!

The Icon+ has a heated humidifier unit built in.  I think this is a great idea because virtually everyone who uses a CPAP machine now uses a humidifier, so why not be clever about the engineering and integrate the two?  The Icon+ has a twist off top that reveals the removable humidifier well.  Being able to pull this well out makes it extremely easy to clean and there’s a handy little line that shows you exactly how high to fill the well up before popping it back into the base unit.  The device also comes with a heated hose, which is very handy!

One of the many things I really like about the Icon+ is that it runs very quietly.  The machine that the sleep clinic used during my sleep survey was quite a bit louder and made a noticeable buzzing sound as it humidified the air.  The Icon+, on the other hand, is as quiet as a whisper.

The major difference between the Icon and Icon+, other than the slight change in colour (the Icon is a brushed metal colour and the Icon+ is charcoal black) is in the menu system.  The newer model has a simplified menu option and in some places is easier to navigate.  Functionally though, as I said, they’re identical.

SensAwake Feature of the Icon+ CPAP Machine

The one feature I really like is the SensAwake functionality.

The device has plenty of bells and whistles that I’ve not used and probably never will – it has a built in alarm clock that you can load songs into via the USB memory stick where you can read your data from and it will wake you up to those tunes.  Oddly enough, since I’ve started my CPAP therapy, I’ve not really needed the alarm clock let alone the one built into the machine!

There are a few small problems with this device though.  My primary complaint is that it doesn’t let me extract my sleep data and view it on my computer, I have to take the memory stick to the supplier and have them print me off reports.  The last time I went to my supplier they said Fisher & Paykel are working on a web based reporting solution at the moment.  I’m not particularly concerned because I can check my data on the machine’s display, but ideally, I’d like to see it visually on a screen over the long haul.

The second problem I see is that because the humidifier is built into the device, it’s a bit heavier than the modular units from other suppliers which can make travelling with it a bit more difficult.  The Icon+ CPAP Machine comes with a nice travel bag that’s big enough to carry the device, the hose and your mask.  I will be travelling soon and I will take my device with me, but I could see if you were a regular traveller for business, you might consider this an issue.

I’m extremely happy with my Fisher & Paykel Icon+ machine.  I like the digital interface, it is nice and quiet, but most importantly, it is helping me get great results and in the end, that’s all that matters.

1

Types of Sleep Apnea Treatment

Types of Sleep Apnea Treatment

The type of sleep apnea treatment that is recommended for you will depend upon your form of sleep apnea – whether it’s considered to be central or obstructive sleep apnea – as well as the severity of your case.  Here we’re going to look at the most common forms of treatment for the most common form of sleep apnea (obstructive sleep apnea or OSA).  As the treatment for children’s sleep apnea is slightly different (including surgery for tonsils and adenoids) we have not included it in this article, but you can find more information on the topic here.

The CPAP Machine

CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, and a CPAP machine is a medical unit that essentially pumps a continuous flow of air to you while you sleep through a hose and a mask.  The reason a CPAP machine works so well with OSA is that the airflow forces open the airways that may otherwise be blocked by the muscle of your throat.  Because of the way it works, using a correctly configured CPAP device can also reduce or eliminate any sounds of snoring.

If you are buying a CPAP machine or are recommended one by a sleep specialist, you will find that you need to try out a CPAP machine.  There are three components for the machine – the unit itself, a mask that fits over either your nose or your mouth and nose, and a hose or tube that connects the mask to the unit.  Many companies make CPAP machines, but probably the most well known are Resmed, Phillips and Fisher & Paykel.  While each CPAP machine does basically the same thing – pump air into your mask, and keep track of how you are sleeping – they each come with different features such as heated hoses (to prevent condensation building up in the hose and mask) and different digital settings for airflow.

CPAP, APAP and BPAP machines

Because sleep apnea sufferers’ requirements are different, there are several different types of sleep apnea machines you can get. We’re not going into too much detail here, however here is a quick breakdown of the different types of machine you might encounter:

    • CPAP machines deliver one fixed pressure throughout the night – although many models do come with the “ramp” feature that has a lower pressure setting which many people find more comfortable when they are first going to sleep.
    • APAP Machines are similar to CPAP machines in that they provide one pressure setting.  However, because they automatically detect your breathing patterns and know when you might need more pressure, they can adjust this during your sleep cycle.
    • A BPAP or BiPAP machine is more complicated still, in that it provides different pressure settings for inhalation (called IPAP) and exhalation (called EPAP).  This type of machine is beneficial for people who have a hard time trying to breathe out against the pressure of a normal CPAP machine.

For the purposes of this article, we’ve called all of these machines “CPAP machines” because it’s the common term used for such devices.

Benefits of CPAP Machines

If you are diagnosed with mild to severe sleep apnea, and you have obstructive sleep apnea, chances are your doctor will recommend you try a CPAP machine. It is currently considered to be the most effective treatment for sleep apnea on the market. Because it is so effective (and therefore lucrative) companies such as Resmed spend hundreds of thousands of dollars researching new equipment and technology. The range of CPAP machines, as well as the masks and accessories, has grown dramatically in the past few years so that now patients have a real choice in design, features and comfort. The good news is that as long as it is seen as a flourishing and growing market, we’ll see new and improved technology in the future.

The other benefit to using a CPAP machine is that it is relatively easy to use – you are, after all, mostly asleep when you are using it. It is true that it can take a while to get used to wearing something like a sleep mask to bed every night, and for some people, it’s just a matter of trying new masks and accessories such as sleep pillows to help them feel comfortable at night. Like with an exercise regime, using a CPAP machine takes persistence, patience and a little bit of faith.

Sleep Apnea Surgery

Surgery for people with OSA is often suggested in very severe cases, or where a specialist believes significant improvement can be made through surgery to the patient’s airways. Any surgery for the condition will target widening or enlarging the airway passages, as well as strengthening the relevant muscles in the region.

Potential areas for surgery include the jaw, tonsils, soft palate nose and the throat wall, with the most common procedure being a uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (removal of the tissues of the throat). Surgery is often considered in cases where people find it difficult to adjust to a CPAP mask, and it is believed that repeat surgeries are more successful for reducing the symptoms of OSA than a one-off operation. For a more detailed examination of the types of surgery for OSA see this article.

Lifestyle Changes To Relieve Sleep Apnea

Finally, we come to those lifestyle factors that may have caused your sleep apnea in the first place or may be making your symptoms more severe.  These are all factors that your doctor should talk to you about when looking at your overall health and well being.  These are things that you have control over – you may not be able to prevent your airways from collapsing as you breathe at night, but you may want to consider your choices in terms of your sleep apnea in the future.

Weightloss

There is no getting around the fact that being overweight is one of the prime risk factors for developing sleep apnea, although doctors do point out that not all obese people develop OSA, and not everyone who has OSA is obese. The key to whether you are at risk of developing the condition seems to be associated with neck circumference (17 inches or more for a man, 16 for a woman). If you fall into this group, a good sleep specialist or your doctor will recommend a weight loss regime that’s tailored to your needs (for example, swimming is often suggested for people who find it hard to put weight on their joints who are disabled). If you feel as though your dietary habits could be improved then you can always get advice from your doctor on good eating habits or visit a nutritionist.

It is not surprising that many patients with OSA complain that they lack the energy to embark on a vigorous exercise routine. Because they’re tired during the day they are less likely to want to participate in exercise (for example, taking the elevator instead of the stairs). Interestingly, doctors find that as soon as patients start to feel the benefits of using a CPAP machine – they have more energy and less tired all the time – they automatically start doing more exercise without even thinking about it. Many people find that their eating habits change naturally too, as they do not feel the urge to eat carbs as much or drink caffeinated drinks just to keep themselves awake during the day.

Smoking

As if you needed another reason to quit smoking, the Mayo Clinic reports that people who smoke are up to three times more likely to develop sleep apnea than non-smokers. The reason is simple: smoking may cause the airways in the throat to become inflamed and cause fluid retention, leading to an obstruction when you’re sleeping.

Alcohol and drugs like sedatives

Like smoking, drinking alcohol and taking sedatives before bedtime has a disastrous effect on your breathing at night – it is believed that the muscles in your throat become relaxed, leading to them “collapsing” occasionally when you take a breath. People who go to bed after having a few drinks tend to snore more, and that’s the reason why.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/49879584@N00/5557732198

So you probably know about sleep apnea, but do you know what Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or “OSA”) is?  Maybe you’ve just been diagnosed with OSA, and want more information.  Maybe you’re curious to see if your daytime sleepiness is caused by OSA?

There are really two types of sleep apnea that doctors refer to: “central” sleep apnea and “obstructive” sleep apnea.  The difference between the two comes down to the cause of the problem – so central sleep apnea is believed to be caused by the brain not regulating breathing properly while you sleep, and obstructive apnea is caused by an “obstruction” that occurs when the muscles at the back of your throat are “limp” and close off your airways.   Obstructive sleep apnea is the commonest form of the condition, and when people refer to “sleep apnea” on the internet they are usually referring to OSA.

Depending on the severity of your OSA, the muscles creating a blockage in your throat can stop you breathing from 10 seconds and beyond while you’re sleeping. This is a scary idea, as anyone who’s shared a bed with someone who stops breathing like that regularly every night can attest to – the sounds the body makes trying to get air in after such an event are frightening. Some OSA events (where you’re not breathing) can last up to 2 minutes! To put this in perspective, try holding your breath at regular intervals during the day for 2 minutes. You quickly come to realise how destructive this could be to your body over time.

Interestingly, OSA can be found among a huge range of age groups (including very small children), although you are more likely to develop the symptoms between 35 to 65 and beyond.  In fact, some studies have suggested that as many as 60 percent of people aged 65 and older have OSA.*

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Causes and Symptoms

The causes of OSA differ, but for the most part, they in some way cause the airways to be blocked.  Being overweight, or having a large neck – wide, not length – for example, means that the muscles around the throat can be “loose”, and in case you want to get out a measuring tape, the dimensions are usually given as anything over 17 inches for men, or 16 for women.

Particular ethnic groups are more at risk, so if you’re Hispanic, a Pacific Islander or African-American you have a better chance than most of having the condition.  If you have what is considered to be a small jaw, an overbite, a recessed chin, a frequent smoking or alcohol-related habit you may also be more at risk for OSA.  Sounds like a lot of us then!  The most unfair thing about Obstructive Sleep Apnea seems to be that they’re looking into a possible genetic cause, which means if your parents or grandparents had OSA you have a good chance of also developing it in life.

including having a small upper airway (or large tongue, tonsils or uvula), being overweight, having a recessed chin, small jaw or a large overbite, a large neck size (17 inches or greater in a man, or 16 inches or greater in a woman), smoking and alcohol use, being age 40 or older, and ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific-Islanders and Hispanics). Also, OSA seems to run in some families, suggesting a possible genetic basis.

The most common symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea include:

  • Chronic snoring.  Everyone snores occasionally, but chronic snoring means that it is very loud and ongoing.
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of focus or concentration
  • Memory loss and difficulty learning new things quickly or easily

Risks of OSA

Ok, so you snore, and you’re a little tired sometimes. So what? Well, it turns out that even if you’re considered to have mild obstructive sleep apnea, it’s still doing significant damage to your body.

Let’s look at what’s happening every time your body tries to catch its breath during sleep:  even if your “events” only last for 10 seconds, your body is still being deprived of oxygen for those 10 seconds.  As science is beginning to find out, having this happen on a regular basis for years on end can lead to concentration and memory issues down the track.  Add to this the fact that you’re mostly being dragged out of a deep sleep each time your body has to “wake itself up”.   Sleep specialists agree that adults need around 7 to 8 hours of “proper” sleep per night to function at an optimal rate.  “Proper”, in this sense, means that you’re naturally falling into the deepest form of sleep (known as wave sleep) for at least 20 per cent of the time.  People with sleep apnea often tend not to fall into this deepest sleep at all.

All this combines to put you at risk for some very nasty problems, including heart attack and cardiac death, high blood pressure, depression and even strokes.

Treatment

The best thing about OSA is that it is easily and quickly treated.

Once you’ve been correctly diagnosed, the symptoms of OSA can often disappear overnight, especially if you’re starting on a CPAP machine.  In fact, CPAP, or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is usually one of the first treatments a sleep specialist will recommend if you’ve been diagnosed with OSA.  If your OSA is caused by other factors, such as jaw alignment, then further dental treatment may be necessary as well.

Let’s not also forget that if you’re a little overweight, your doctor will suggest slimming down as one way to help the symptoms, and if you smoke or drink, you’ll probably be also asked to either quit or cut down considerably for your health.

*Source: NHS Choices website

 

Realizing My Sleep Apnea Was A Problem

Avoiding Sleep Apnea TreatmentWhen I look back on the days before I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, one thing that amazes me now is that I knew that I had the condition well before I was diagnosed or actually did anything about it. Looking back, I had gone online, done some research about sleep apnea, I knew that my snoring was outrageously loud and I had even made the leap of connecting my constant fatigue to the sleep problems. Even with that amount of understanding and knowledge, I just never really “felt” it was a serious issue.

Like many people, I just figured that I’d eventually start to lose some weight and the whole problem would alleviate itself. Presto! Just like magic.

Even reading about all of the serious side physical effects and the potential for death didn’t jar me into the realization that I should probably do something about the problem. In hindsight, I find it unbelievable that heart damage and high blood pressure wasn’t enough to motivate me to do something about seeking out treatment.

The thing that finally made me actually do something and to seek treatment was an increase in my private health insurance cost – how stupid is that?

I went to the doctor’s got the referral for a sleep study and being honest, even at this point, there was part of me that thought that the tests were going to come up empty and there was going to be nothing wrong. That’s almost delusional, right?

My Apnea-Hypopnea Index Score

The tipping point for me came when I went to see my doctor after the sleep study and we went through the results. My Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) score was 73.1. He explained in layman’s terms that effectively I wasn’t breathing or my sleep was being disrupted over 70 times per hour! Not only that, my brain wave activity during my sleep showed that I was never really entering REM sleep for any length of time and that I was probably never having Level 3 REM Sleep let alone Level 4 which completely explained why I never woke up feeling refreshed.

Essentially, I was chronically sleep deprived and it was placing a severe strain on my body. In retrospect, I think it is safe to say that this severe sleep apnea probably started five or six years ago, so I’ve been suffering sleep deprivation for half a decade! I didn’t have a sleep debt, I was pretty much sleep bankrupt.

I came away from that consultation knowing I had a problem that I had to deal with. Maybe it was the numbers, maybe it was the graphs or even the doctor’s serious tone when he was describing the seriousness of my condition, I’m not exactly sure, but it finally resonated with me.

Being Tested For Sleep Apnea

Then came the second sleep study where they put me on a CPAP Machine and monitored the results of my sleep. They hooked me up to the computer, slapped a Fisher & Paykel Simplus Full Face Mask on me and I fell off to sleep. A couple times through the night I struggled with the mask and they had to come in and re-adjust it for me and about a half an hour before I was due to wake up I literally pulled the mask off in my sleep, but they felt they had enough good data, I had gotten about five hours sleep with the mask and they were happy.

With just those five hours sleep and waking up at 5:45am, I was a different person. I was showered, dressed and eating my hospital breakfast at 6:30am. I was checked out and in a taxi home by 7am. In fact, I didn’t even go home, I went to my local coffee shop – I felt like a million dollars, I was refreshed!

That day was pivotal for me. I walked in the front door by 8:30am and my family and I went out for breakfast like we always did on Saturdays. Except I was in the car wide awake and talking a hundred miles an hour. I had clarity of thought and was coming up with new ideas for things. Halfway to breakfast, a mere ten minutes in the car and my wife said I was a completely different person. The whole day was like that – I wasn’t tired at all, no little cat naps, no struggling to stay awake driving… I didn’t even fall asleep watching TV that night!

I knew then that obstructive sleep apnea was a MASSIVE problem for me and that I absolutely needed to get treatment. In just five hours of good sleep, I could see the difference and I didn’t want to go back. I now feel like a new man, and can only wonder why I didn’t do it sooner.

What about you, do you have a similar story to mine, or did you get treatment straight away when you knew what the problem was? Or maybe you’re tossing up whether to go to a doctor to get a diagnosis?

Please go below and leave your thoughts or a comment.