Dreaming of a good night's sleep?
For many people, a common condition called sleep apnea interferes with sleep.
"Sleep apnea is caused when the tongue and throat muscles relax during sleep. The airway becomes blocked or narrowed, and breathing can stop for several seconds," explains Daren Tobert, MD, Gundersen Sleep Medicine specialist. "With a drop in oxygen the brain starts waking, raising adrenal levels, heart rate and blood pressure. That's why sleep apnea can lead to heart disease, stroke, accidents due to tiredness and premature death."
But sleep apnea is easily treatable. Most people associate sleep apnea with loud snoring, snorts, gasps and long pauses without breathing. While these are common symptoms, for some people symptoms vary and can be more difficult to recognize.
Consider a sleep study at Gundersen if you have symptoms such as:
- Restlessness/frequent waking at night
- Excessive tiredness during the day
- Restless legs/muscle aches
- Forgetfulness/difficulty focusing
- Difficult-to-control high blood pressure
During the sleep study, a technician monitors heart rate, brain waves, oxygen levels, air exchange, limb movement and how often sleep is disrupted. A sleep specialist uses this information to determine the severity of the sleep apnea and how best to treat it.
"Treatment for sleep apnea is commonly a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which uses mild air pressure, delivered through a mask, to keep your airway open," Dr. Tobert says. Lifestyle changes may help—lose weight, quit smoking, treat allergies and sleep on your side. An oral appliance that repositions the jaw or surgical options may be needed.