Good sleep is vital for healthy living. In fact, it is as important as good nutrition and physical fitness. Your work and relationships may suffer, and you could even develop serious health problems.
In a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a temporary blockage of the upper airway occurs as the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep. Generally, breathing is blocked from ten seconds up to a minute and these events may occur up to hundreds of times a night. With each event, a signal is sent from the brain to the upper airway muscles to open the airway; breathing is resumed often with a loud snort, gasp, or even a choking sensation. You may be roused from sleep but not fully awake so you may not remember these awakenings. This pattern of sleep is very disruptive and causes you to be deprived of the deeper levels of sleep, which are the most restorative.
If you have sleep apnea, you may experience the following:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Sexual problems
- Memory lapses
- Lack of concentration
- Intellectual deterioration
- Morning headaches
- Falling asleep at inappropriate times
Sleep apnea has also been associated with hypertension, strokes, and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
What should you do if you suspect you may have obstructive sleep apnea?
Talk to your primary care physician or a doctor specializing in sleep disorders about your symptoms. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-altering, and life-threatening condition that is easily identified and effectively treated.
How is sleep apnea diagnosed?
In addition to your primary care physician, a pulmonologist with specialized training in sleep disorders may order a sleep study (Polysomnography). This is a test that records a variety of body functions during sleep, such as the electrical activity of the brain, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate, respiratory effort, airflow, snoring, and blood oxygen levels. This test is used both to diagnose sleep apnea and to determine its severity.
How long does a sleep test take?
Most generally, you will be asked to show up at the Sleep Center around 7:00 p.m. This will allow enough time for the monitoring equipment necessary to perform the sleep study to be applied. Once set up, you will have time to relax, read a book or watch TV. “Lights out” is generally between 10:15 to 10:30 p.m. If you normally go to bed earlier or need to be up before 5:30 a.m., please call ahead or let your technician know when you arrive.
Your sleeping atmosphere.
Every attempt has been made to ensure that your sleeping atmosphere is comfortable during the sleep study. You may feel strange at first with the electrodes on your skin, however, most people do not find them unpleasant or an obstacle to falling asleep. The sleep specialist recognizes that your may not sleep in the lab exactly as you do at home, but in most cases, this does not cause a problem in obtaining the necessary information from your study. If by chance, you would have an excessive amount of trouble falling asleep, or if not enough time was left in the night to apply and adjust the CPAP unit, the doctor may recommend that you come in for a second study.
How is sleep apnea treated?
The most commonly effective treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) pronounced “see-PAP”. In this procedure, you wear a small mask over your nose during sleep, while the CPAP unit delivers lightly pressurized air. This air pressure acts as a splint to hold your airway open, preventing snoring and apneas. Most patients experience almost immediate relief with CPAP treatments, finding they have more energy, vitality, and improved quality of life.
Will my insurance company pay for the sleep study?
Yes. But as with all diagnostic treatments, make sure you check with your insurance company about preferred providers. If your doctor refers you to a sleep center outside of your network of providers, you may be required to pay a higher co-pay.
If I need a CPAP machine, would my insurance company pay for it?
At this time, all insurance companies require a sleep study to qualify for CPAP. If the sleep study shows that CPAP would be indicated, your insurance company will pay for the purchase or rental of a CPAP unit.