One out of every 15 people in the Unites States suffers from sleep apnea, a breathing disorder characterized by the cessation of breathing or abnormally shallow breathing during periods of sleep. These periods of apnea can last anywhere from several seconds to several minutes and often occur numerous times each hour. Some people who suffer from undiagnosed sleep apnea may be unaware that they are having any difficulty breathing during sleep.
There are three different types of sleep apnea, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and mixed or complex sleep apnea, which, as it infers is a combination of Central and Obstructive Sleep Apnea. The most common type is OSA.
“Of all of the people who suffer from sleep apnea, most are affected by Obstructive Sleep Apnea—where breathing is interrupted by an anatomical blockage of airflow at the back of the throat and base of the tongue,” said Dr. Stuart Lehrman, Pulmonologist and Director of the Sleep Lab at Westchester Medical Center. “Throughout history, especially on television, in movies and in literature, the snoring sounds created by this anatomical obstacle has always been associated with a deep sleep or seen as comical, however it is anything but that. Today we know it is the sign of a very serious and in some cases life threatening condition, especially when coupled with any other comorbidity, such as obesity.”
Sleep Apnea and the ensuing snoring have been shown to cause sleep deprivation to not only the person snoring, but to those around them as well. In addition studies have shown that it also causes irritability and daytime drowsiness as well as cognitive issues. Recent studies have shown a direct link between snoring and an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.
Modern sleep labs, like the one at Westchester Medical Center have been helping physicians diagnose and treat sleep apnea. “Some people aren’t even aware that they have sleep apnea. So a polysomnogram—an overnight sleep study is preformed—which allows doctors to monitor the patient through the night to better evaluate their risks and determine the best treatment options,” adds Lehrman.