Sleep Expert at Northern Westchester Hospital Explains Sleep Apnea, Symptoms, Dangers, and Treatment Options

Posted on: April 22, 2014

Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Dangers, and Treatment Options

By Dr. Praveen Rudraraju, Director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital

What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder where you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?
Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea. The most common symptoms are snoring and daytime sleepiness. But these symptoms may not be seen in everyone, which delays diagnosis in most people. Other symptoms that are seen in sleep apnea are non-restorative sleep, morning headaches, nocturia (urinating multiple times at night), and insomnia. One or more symptoms may be present in most patients. There are some people with no symptoms.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses.

What are the dangers of sleep apnea?
Untreated sleep apnea leads to many health problems:
•    increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
•    increased risk of, or worsened, heart failure
•    arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats
•    an increased chance of having work-related or driving accidents

What treatment is available for people diagnosed with sleep apnea?
Treating sleep apnea is very important. Treatment should be individualized based on history and anatomy.

Some of the treatment options are:
•    CPAP machine – it’s a small machine that is by the patient’s bedside which blows air gently to keep the airway open
•    dental devices can be custom made by certified dentists, which can help in some cases
•    Provent therapy – these are small nasal valves that cover the nostrils that help in some patients with their sleep apnea or snoring
•    Winx machine – this is a small machine that is by the patient’s bedside which is attached to a mouth piece that is inserted into the mouth
•    surgery – there are several surgical options which are indicated in small groups of patients

Editor’s Note: Visit the Center for Sleep Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital and take our quiz to see if you might be suffering from a sleep disorder.