If you suspect that your loved one may have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, bringing this to their attention may be the greatest gift of all. As everyone knows, the more rested you are, the better you feel; therefore, people who treat their sleep apnea truly do enjoy a better quality of life.
Addressing and treating sleep apnea can also lead to a reduction in the risk for numerous diseases and conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and even cognitive and behavioral disorders. Here’s what to do if you think someone you love may have sleep apnea.
Identify the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Since the symptoms of sleep apnea aren’t always evident to the sufferer—they primarily manifest themselves during sleep, when only a partner might notice them—it is especially important that you bring any concerns about your partner’s behavior during sleep to their attention.
People with untreated sleep apnea can stop breathing repeatedly, even hundreds of times per night and for a minute at a time or longer. “In most cases the sleeper is unaware of these breath stoppages because they don’t trigger a full awakening,” writes the American Sleep Apnea Association.
This potentially serious sleep disorder can occur because the muscles in the throat involuntarily relax or because the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
According to Mayo Clinic, the most common signs of sleep apnea are:
- Loud snoring
- Episodes in which breathing ceases during sleep
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Awakening with a dry mouth
- Morning headache
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
How to Diagnose Sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea—obstructive, central, and mixed, with obstructive being the most common. If you think your partner has sleep apnea, pay a visit to your general practitioner, who can assess your partner’s symptoms and decide whether or not to refer them to a sleep disorder center.
Sleep apnea is ordinarily diagnosed by a sleep specialist in one of two ways: with an at-home sleep study or during an overnight sleep study at a hospital. In both cases, heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow, and breathing patterns will be monitored. During a more comprehensive nocturnal polysomnography test at a sleep center, lung and brain activity and arm and leg movements are also tested.
Lunella is a great option, as it lets you test for sleep apnea in the comfort of your own home. If your test result indicates that you have sleep apnea, your doctor can help you move forward with the right treatment.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
In milder cases of sleep apnea, a doctor may recommend treating it with lifestyle changes alone—such as quitting smoking, losing weight or treating allergies. Or the doctor may recommend that a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device be used to assist with opening up the blocked airway. Surgery may also be an option.
CPAP is the most common way to treat sleep apnea. The ventilator, which uses a hose and mask or nosepiece, applies mild air pressure continuously to keep the airway open.
Adjusting to CPAP Therapy
CPAP therapy is the gold-standard sleep apnea treatment, and although it is very effective, adherence rates are poor. Approximately 50 percent of all patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea and prescribed CPAP therapy will abandon treatment or fail on CPAP, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association.
Many sleep apnea sufferers find it bothersome to wear a CPAP night after night, reporting trouble falling asleep and side effects such as a stuffy nose and dry mouth. This is all part of the adjustment process that the National Sleep Foundation says takes each patient anywhere from a few days to a few months to adjust to.
In addition to the side effects of CPAP therapy, the time-consuming nature of cleaning a CPAP machine may be a source of frustration, leading to non-adherence. Weekly cleanings aren’t realistic for many patients, and it’s nearly impossible to adequately reach every part of the equipment, or to remove all germs and bacteria by using soap and water or wipes. However, if not properly cleaned, the germs and bacteria trapped in CPAP machines could put your partner at increased risk for certain infections, such as pneumonia.
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.