Sleep apnea testing can make resting easier
Posted November 4, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — Clocks will move backward one hour this Sunday morning, giving everyone an extra hour of sleep. But for people suffering from sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder, even an extra hour of sleep won’t cure daytime drowsiness.
That’s because sleep apnea has little to do with how long a person sleeps. It’s about how well, or in these cases not well, they are able to rest.
Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep, either by a blockage of the airway or because the brain can’t correctly signal the muscles to breathe.
Sleep apnea is increasing in frequency, mainly due to the growing trend of obesity.
Brandon Devers, 24, suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, the more common of the two disorders. He said he always attributed his tiredness and headaches to his overnight hours at work. Until he fell asleep at the wheel and was in a car accident, he had no idea he had sleep apnea.
“My issues were mainly snoring and I was mainly tired throughout the day,” he said. “And I figured it was due to me working a lot of shift hours.”
Devers underwent a sleep study, where the brain waves and breathing are monitored overnight. He had mild obstructive sleep apnea and was falling asleep 12 times every hour gasping for air.
Dr. Yvette Cook, with the Rex Sleep Disorders Center in Garner, said Devers’ type of sleep apnea can be life threatening if left untreated.
“It increases your risk of heart attack and stroke,” she said.
After his study Devers was fitted with a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine, which is designed to help improve breathing. The CPAP helps keep the airway from collapsing.
“It puts a lot of pressure, air pressure into the upper airway and splints it open to keep the airway open and the person breathes in through the mask,” Cook said.
Since being fitted for his CPAP Devers said the frequent headaches and tiredness he used to suffer from are no longer an issue.
“It's a complete 360 degree, you know, I've completely turned around to where I have no issues staying up throughout the day,” he said. “I don't wake up with headaches anymore. My headaches are completely gone.”
Overweight people who have snoring issues and suffer from daytime drowsiness are candidates to be tested for sleep apnea. A personal physician may refer patients to sleep specialists or a sleep study.