What is Sleep Apnea?

Check out this great info on sleep apnea – it’s a dangerous condition that you might not even know you have!  If you do, there are some things that can help you, like a CPAP machine, or an adjustable bed!

To put it in the simplest terms, sleep apnea is a condition wherein the sufferer experiences instances of shallow breathing, pauses in breathing, or even infrequent breathing during their sleep. Every pause is referred to as an “apnea,” and they can last around ten seconds in length or even a few minutes before the individual starts to breathe again. Studies see apneas occurring as frequently as five to thirty times in a single hour.

There are three different types of sleep apnea: central, obstructive, and complex. Central sleep apnea refers to a lack of respiratory effort, and accounts for less than one percent of all sleep apnea sufferers. Obstructive refers to physical blockage, often resulting in snoring, and accounts for around 84% of all sleep apnea. Complex is a mix of the two, accounting for around 15% of all sleep apnea.

Because others typically observe sleep apnea during the sufferer’s sleep, many who live with sleep apnea may go years, decades, or lifetime without even knowing that they suffer from the condition.

To someone who isn’t familiar with the condition, it might not sound like much of a problem at all, but the effects of the condition can be quite serious. Frequently, poor breathing during sleep can result in restless nights and general lethargy during the day. Slightly less common, but not entirely atypical, sleep apnea sufferers may wake up in sleep paralysis, the paralysis that your body undergoes during deep sleep in order to keep you from harming yourself during the night. Those who have regular experiences of waking up during sleep paralysis may even grow to fear sleep and develop insomnia.

Long-term effects of sleep apnea can include memory loss and poor focus. In other words, sleep apnea is taxing on the brain.

Treatment can include medication, devices to assist in breathing such as CPAP masks, and even surgery for extreme cases.

Many who suffer mild sleep apnea may choose simply to live with it, but getting proper treatment can be an effortless, painless process. That said, the condition affects different people to different degrees, and the treatment that is right for one may not be for another.

 

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Sleep Apnea Info YOU Should Read

Hey everyone – this is a great article by John Redfern on sleep apnea.  This is a very dangerous and common condition, and deserves more attention than it gets.  Check it out:

Sleep Apnea and its Prevalence in Europe and the USA

There are three known forms of sleep apnea: central (CSA), obstructive (OSA), and complex or mixed sleep apnea that is a combination of both central and obstructive and these constitute 1%, 84% and 15% of cases respectively. In CSA, breathing is interrupted by a lack of respiratory effort. With OSA, a physical block to airflow, despite respiratory effort, interrupts the breathing and snoring is common. Overall 99% of all cases are OSA based.

 If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – also known as sleep apnea, and by far the most common type, you’ll know that this form of sleep-disordered breathing can seriously affect your quality of life and impact your health if left untreated. It is estimated that sleep apnea affects between 2% to 4% of the adult population in the UK, yet this debilitating condition often goes undiagnosed so we are far from sure.

 At 4% there would be approximately 2.5 million sufferers in the UK but very few people are actually being treated currently for the problem.

 OSA is a worldwide phenomenon. Studies suggest that in Western European countries from 3-7% of middle-aged men and 2-5% of middle-aged women suffer from OSA, but figures vary widely due to low diagnosis levels.

Living with a Sleep Apnea Sufferer

Despite the increasing recognition that obstructive sleep apnea is a relatively common condition, population data used to estimate disease prevalence in the United States and abroad did not exist accurately until about 15 years ago. Since the 1990s much has happened to quantify the levels of obstructive sleep apnea in various populations. A number of studies using large samples representative of the general population are now available and provide prevalence estimates for obstructive sleep apnea in countries such as the United States, Australia, Spain, China, Korea, and India.

 According to figures issued by the World Health Organization approximately only 100 million people worldwide have OSA. In the USA, OSA is estimated to affect 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women; and affects a total of 23 million working adults. Untreated moderate or severe OSA is associated with a six-fold increased risk of death from all causes, independent of any other illnesses.

 Other published figures state much a higher total figure based on detailed analysis of registered sufferers and some of these figures are shown below. If one accepts that the addition of the undiagnosed sufferers would at least double these numbers then the figures are quite alarming.

 Country                      % with OSA       Actual Number

United Kingdom          4.0%                    2.5 million

United States              4.1%                    18.5 million

Australia                      3.1%                    0.8 million

India                            7.5%                    85 million

China                           4.2%                    57 million

Korea                          4.5%                    2.3 million

 There is evidence that regular snoring and OSA are both independently associated with alterations in glucose metabolism and OSA might be a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes. The prevalence of OSA is also found more often in those patients with cardiac or metabolic disorders than it is in the general population.

 The prevalence of sleep apnea is higher in different population subgroups, including overweight or obese people, those of some ethnic groups such as African-American, and in older individuals. The fact that prevalence estimates of obstructive sleep apnea from North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia are not too substantially different suggests that this disease is very common not only in developed but also in developing countries. Moreover, given the widespread under-recognition of this disorder by the medical and lay communities, the public and personal health care costs globally are likely to be absolutely enormous.

Source: World Health Organisation

It is estimated in the USA that although there is a known figure of 18.5 million residents* with sleep apnea, there are over twice that many with some form of major sleep disorder – 40 million in total. If these figures are to be believed, the difference is mostly attributed to undiagnosed OSA, and the problem is even more enormous than we believe and constantly worsening.

It is important for us to recognise that obstructive sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine surgery visits and no blood test can help diagnose the condition. Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep so a family member or bed partner might be the first to notice the distinctive signs of sleep apnea.

Untreated sleep apnea can:

     Increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes and cancer

     Increase the risk of, or worsen heart failure

     Make arrhythmias, or irregular heartbeats, much more likely

     Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents

 Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and breathing devices can successfully treat sleep apnea in many people, and it is critical to get professional help and support if you suspect that you are suffering from the condition described.

John Redfern

Sources for US Statistics: 27.02.2012 – National Sleep Foundation and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 *US statistics – see the detail for these Sleep Disorders.

Sleep: You Just Might Be Doing It Wrong

Sleeping positionsIf you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll notice that I recommend softer beds for side sleepers, medium beds for back sleepers, and medium firm beds for stomach sleepers.  I say this because most of the time, these average firmness levels help keep the sleeper’s spine in alignment.  But sometimes, folks, it’s not the bed.  It’s possible that you’re just sleeping wrong (position-wise).  Check out this info graphic about sleeping positions.  If you have arthritis, did you know that sleeping in the fetal position can be making it worse?  Or that acid reflux is increased in stomach sleepers?  If you’re concerned about wrinkles, try your best to sleep on your back, as all other positions will increase the pull on your skin.

According to the graphic, everyone should be sleeping on their back.  It reduces wrinkles and acid reflux, and can help prevent back and neck pain.  And, if snoring isn’t a problem, then this might be the just right position for you.  If it’s not comfortable, try putting a pillow under your knees, to elevate your legs slightly, this will ease the pressure on your lower back.  For a mattress, try the Bernardsville Plush Pillow Top by Beautyrest Recharge.  It’s that just right combination of firm support, and soft padding that’s not overwhelming.

Most of us sleep on our sides, because it just tends to be the most comfortable.  While the graphic says that it’s not so great for wrinkle free skin and perky breasts, that’s why they created plastic surgery, right?  Side sleepers don’t snore, and usually have less acid reflux.  And true, it is the requisite sleeping position for expectant mothers (how else are they supposed to sleep without smashing up their insides, and still being able to breathe?!?).  To open up your hips, place a poufy pillow between your knees to make your spinal position better.  Try the Comforpedic Balanced Days, which is really pressure relieving since most of your weight will be on your hip and shoulder, and will offer great support.

Does anyone over the age of five still sleep in the fetal position?  By pulling your legs up towards your chest, you are pushing your hip further into the mattress, which creates pressure points.  Your back is curved, which ends up being painful, and believe me, no pregnant lady is sleeping with her knees smashed up against her belly.  If this is the ONLY way that you can sleep, try putting a pillow between your knees to help with the hip problem, or find a bed that’s more comfortable for different positions, like the Comforpedic Renewed Energy.  I’d bet that you’d be able to train your body to sleep a different way on a more supportive and comfortable bed.

sleeping positions

Finally, stomach sleepers.  I never really understood them.  I once tried to sleep on my stomach, and couldn’t do it.  My neck and back hurt, I didn’t know where to put my arms, and I was being suffocated by the pillow.  It’s my personal opinion that these people sleep this way because they are resting on a bed that is too firm, and is creating pressure when they sleep on their sides, and isn’t adequately supporting their lumbar region when they are on their back.  If the bed isn’t providing cushioning, you might as well use your own natural softness, right?  The problem is that it’s a vicious cycle – stomach sleepers need to sleep on something firm, which means that the chances of them changing their sleep position are slim, because it’s just not going to be as comfortable as sleeping on their stomach.  If you sleep on your stomach and don’t have neck and back pain, then you belong in the circus.  However, if you’re a die-hard tummy fan, then get a Recharge Dennet Luxury Firm.  It’s firm enough to keep you breathing, but not too firm that it would be uncomfortable if you decided to make a position change for the better.  To ease your lumbar pain that you’re surely having, you can try to put a pillow under your hips, to relieve some of the pressure on your lumbar.

As for me, I sleep mostly on my side, sometimes on my back.  My husband sleeps on his back, until I shove him onto his side to stem the snoring.  Any way that you go, make sure that you choose a new mattress that will fit the way that you sleep.  And if you go into a store to shop, make sure that you try out that test bed in the way that you actually sleep.  Just a tip.

Important Articles on Sleeping Positions worth reading:

Slide show: Sleeping positions that reduce back pain

Suffering from Low Back Pain? This article might help you

Your Sleeping Position  – Get Clue on what kind of person you are!

Low Back Pain ? Wondering if Sleeping on Floor helps? Have a READ!

A Video Demonstration – Best Sleeping Positions to reduce Stress.