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The SleepCare Center at RWJ Hamilton

Snoring Sleep Apnea Narcolepsy Restless Leg Syndrome Periodic Limb Movement Disorder Insomnia Parasomnias

Sleep Apnea
  • Approximately 30 million Americans are victims of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea.
  • Many millions more are pre-disposed and have a high risk of developing the illness.
  • "Apnea" is a Greek word meaning "without breath".
  • Those with apnea literally stop breathing in their sleep often hundreds of times during the night.

How does it occur?

  • During normal sleep, throat muscles relax.
  • If the throat is crowded due to obesity, the airway collapses during sleep. Airflow stops and the blood oxygen level drops, which causes the brain to wake up.
  • If you have sleep apnea, this cycle may repeat hundreds of times during the night while you have no idea it is happening.

What are the Common Symptoms?

  • Fatigue and tiredness during the day.
  • Loud snoring.
  • Waking up with choking or gasping.
  • Not feeling rested in the morning or satisfied with a night's sleep.
  • A strong desire to take a daily afternoon nap.
  • Unexplained accidents or errors.
  • Morning headaches.

Other Common Features are:

  • Obesity
  • Small jaw, thick neck
  • High blood pressure
  • Restless sleep; the repeated struggle to breathe can be associated with a great deal of movement.
  • Depressed mood and/or irritability
  • Reduced sex drive and impotence
  • Snorting, gasping, choking during sleep

How Serious is it?

  • Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition.
  • Undiagnosed severe sleep apnea can cause irregular heartbeats, unstable high blood pressure, leg swelling, heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest during sleep, or a harmful accident.
  • Increased daytime sleepiness poses a serious risk of automobile accidents, impaired functioning in the workplace and in personal relationships.
  • Untreated sleep apnea tends to progressively worsen and can cause partial or complete disability and death.

How is it Diagnosed?

  • An overnight sleep study, called polysomnography, is usually done to diagnose sleep apnea.
  • The sleep study measures your heart rate, brain waves, chest movement, air flow and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
  • Other sleep disorders that cause unrestful sleep may be detected with a sleep study as well.
  • The test involves no pain and is covered by insurance.

How is Sleep Apnea Treated?

  • The most commonly prescribed treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
  • The CPAP machine delivers air pressure through a small nasal mask that the patient wears while sleeping.
  • The pressure acts as an "air splint" which keeps the throat open eliminating obstructive apneas.
  • Sleep becomes uninterrupted and restorative, and dramatically improves daytime functioning as well as general health.
  • Sleep apnea can also be treated surgically; however, the success rates may vary greatly depending on which procedure is chosen and the experience and skills of the surgeons.
  • Some patients try dental appliances that work by bringing the lower jaw forward to increase the size of the airway.

For more information or to schedule the sleep study, please call the toll free number 1-866-SLEEP40 (1-866-753-3740).

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