Perhaps you’re one of the many men whose wives have been complaining that you snore loudly in bed. As your dear kissed you and wished you a good night’s sleep, you probably know this is a difficult dream to fulfil.
Chances are, you have been feeling tired all the time. But sometimes it’s more than just a case of loud snores. You may also have been suffering from choking/ gasping spells which woke you up from your not-so-peaceful slumber.
WAKE UP CALL
You may be having Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), if you also experience the following symptoms:
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
Unfortunately, OSA isn’t doesn’t just come with unpleasant dreams. Several conditions can cause OSA and are by themselves dangerous enough in their own right.
For one, many adults who snore (with or without OSA) are overweight. Being overweight gives you a thicker neck, which results in the narrowing of your upper airway, make you wheeze in your sleep.
And if you suffer regularly from nasal blockage due to allergy or polyps, your nasal cavity will be narrowed and block the flow of air into your lungs.
Now, say “ah” and check out the mirror. Is the base of your tongue larger than usual? This is a condition known as tongue prolapse, which can obstruct your airway during sleep. In some people, a receding lower jaw forces the base of tongue backwards, which then causes obstruction when they lie down.
HIT THE SNOOZE BUTTON...
You may be able to treat mild sleep apnea by making changes to how you live. Losing weight through dietary changes and exercising will help immensely, if you are overweight.
If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, you may benefit from a machine that helps you breathe while you sleep. Known as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) treatment, the machine pushes a column of ‘positive pressure’ air into the lungs, instead of letting you suck air naturally.
Other procedures can also be performed under local anaesthesia to avoid depending on the machine for life. These include inserting implants into your soft palate (back portion of your mouth that separates your mouth from your nose) or applying electrical energy to stiffen it.
If CPAP doesn't work, or if your tonsils, adenoids or other tissues are blocking the airway, surgery to remove the tonsils and tighten the soft palate may be suggested.
Oral appliances can also be arranged by oro-maxillo-facial surgeons to keep the tongue from obstructing the upper airway.
DON'T SLEEP ON IT
Sleep apnea is associated with loss of sleep, and more serious conditions such as a 3 to 5 times higher risk of suffering from hypertension, strokes and heart attacks.
To confirm a diagnosis of OBA, a doctor will examine you, and ask you and your partner about your health history and sleep behaviour.
The gold standard test for OSA is a Polysomnogram (PSG) or Sleep Study. This can be done in a hospital or at home.
A hospital-based study is a full study while a home-based study is a partial study. The partial study is sufficient to diagnose OSA. Full studies are generally required if other sleep disorders are suspected.
The Sleep Study will report your score on the Apnea- Hypopnea Index (AHI), also known as the Respiratory Distress Index (RDI). This indicates the number of times you experience episodes of apnea each hour. Less than five is normal, five to 15 is mild, 15 to 35 is moderate and more than 35 episodes an hour is severe.
The lowest oxygen saturation is also measured. It should remain above 87%. If it goes below 65%, then it is severe.
Other methods have been employed to assess the degree of OSA. This includes the Watchpat and Apneagraph. However, these methods remain experimental and are not widely used.