As the number of sleep apnea diagnoses rise each year, so does the awareness of this sleep disorder. Here are seven things you may not know about the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing and its primary treatment: continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy.
1. There Are Things That Are Proven to Make Sleep Apnea Worse.
At least 25 million Americans are afflicted by sleep apnea and there are at least eight causes that have been proven to worsen their symptoms: Weight gain, alcohol, certain prescription medications, sleep position, sleep deprivation, smoking, and anatomy (e.g. enlarged tonsils, a deviated septum or a smaller-than-usual airway).
2. Sleep Apnea Is Linked With High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease.
Sleep apnea patients experience gaps in breathing, which can lead to an increase in blood pressure as the body struggles to maintain a constant oxygen flow. It would follow, then, that treating sleep apnea helps lower blood pressure—and research backs this up.
According to a study done at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, CPAP therapy helps to reduce systolic and diastolic blood pressures among sleep apnea patients. Because for those with sleep apnea, high blood pressure is one of the top health issues that leads to heart disease, it can be concluded that CPAP also reduces the risk of developing heart problems.
3. Sleep Apnea Is Linked to Depression.
Signs of clinical depression are extraordinarily common in people who have obstructive sleep apnea, but they can be much improved following CPAP treatment. A new study found that sleep apnea patients who adhere to CPAP therapy for three months notice a significant reduction in their depressive symptoms. Out of the 228 participants in this study, only 9 continued to suffer from clinically significant depressive symptoms after CPAP therapy.
4. Sleep Apnea Is Often Missed in African Americans.
A new study conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital looked at 852 black men and women in Jackson, Mississippi, and found that 24 percent of the study’s participants had moderate or severe sleep apnea, but only 5 percent had been diagnosed by a doctor.
“In other words, over 95 percent of this sample experience nightly stresses associated with periods when breathing stops and oxygen levels fall,” said study author Dayna Johnson. “Asking about habitual snoring and measuring neck size (a risk factor for sleep apnea) can help identify individuals at risk.”
5. Treating Sleep Apnea Can Aid Recovery of People Who Have Suffered a Stroke.
People with sleep apnea who have suffered a stroke or mini-stroke may benefit from treating their nighttime breathing difficulties with CPAP. Treatment of sleep apnea (which is a known risk factor for stroke) with CPAP therapy has been shown to provide significant benefits for these patients. They have even been proven to be greater than that of tPA, the FDA-approved drug treatment for stroke.
6. CPAP therapy Can Improve Your Life.
When adjusting to CPAP therapy, many patients report feeling frustrated with the adjustments to treatment. However, it can be helpful to remember its many benefits, including relief from migraines, a healthier pregnancy, weight loss, and even happier life partners (whose sleep also improves as a result).
7. To See Results, You Need to Stick With It.
For all the benefits of CPAP therapy, it’s notorious for poor patient adherence. When 20 years of reported data was analyzed, researchers found that one-third of people don’t stick with the therapy, in spite of advances that include quieter pumps, softer masks, and improved portability. They concluded, “CPAP continues to stand at the top of the treatment modality spectrum for OSA despite the problematic shortcomings described above.”
If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from sleep apnea, an at-home sleep test can be an easy, convenient way to find out. Lunella allows consumers to take a sleep apnea test from the comfort of their own home and receive a proper data-driven diagnosis from a board-certified sleep physician and a prescription for treatment, if necessary.
This blog post contains general information about medical conditions and potential treatments. It is not medical advice. If you have any medical questions, please consult your doctor.