Nyack, N.Y. May 1, 2013 - A good night’s sleep is
important for so many reasons. It restores, repairs
and heals the body. A solid night of sleep helps the
immune system, learning and memory, metabolism
and hormone function.

A common disorder that interrupts a full night’s rest is sleep apnea. A person with this disorder has recurrent interruptions in breathing while sleeping due to partial or complete closure of the upper breathing passages. These can occur numerous times per hour and can significantly disrupt sleep as well as drop the oxygen level in the body.

An estimated 24 percent of men and 15 percent of women have this condition. About 20 million Americans have sleep apnea and  most have not yet been diagnosed.

Health disorders linked with sleep apnea include high blood pressure, heart disease, arrhythmias, stroke and diabetes. While the disorder is more common in people who are overweight and obese, it can occur in anyone, even children.      
Snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea. People with the disorder generally don’t know they are snoring; usually their bed partner will notice the problem. Daytime sleepiness is another common symptom. People may be drowsy while driving and get into accidents.

Diagnosing and treating sleep apnea can greatly improve the quality of life of the person with the disorder and  help prevent a number of serious health problems. It can also improve the sleep of their bed partner.

If your doctor suspects that you may have sleep apnea, you may be referred to a sleep center for an overnight sleep study called Polysomnogram. This test measures brain wave activity, eye movements, heart rate, amount of oxygen in the blood, snoring, limb movements, chest movements, and air flow through the nose and mouth while you sleep. This is done through sensors attached to the face, scalp, chest, limbs and finger. An alternative is a sleep test done at home with a portable monitor.

If you have mild apnea, you may be treated with lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and tobacco, and being advised to sleep on your side. In some cases, surgery to widen breathing passages is used to treat mild sleep apnea. You could be a candidate for a custom fitted mouthpiece to help keep airways open while you sleep.

The “gold standard” of sleep apnea treatment is called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. It uses compressed air under pressure to keep the airways open during sleep. People with moderate or severe sleep apnea (and sometimes even mild sleep apnea) are treated with CPAP, which uses a mask that fits over the mouth and nose, or just the nose.

If you think you might have sleep apnea, consult your doctor. Treatment can improve your health, your quality of life and help you get that good night’s sleep you’ve been missing.

For information about sleep disorders and services at the Edythe Kurz Center for Sleep Medicine at Nyack Hospital, contact 845-348-2209.

About Nyack Hospital
Nyack Hospital is a 375-bed community acute care medical and surgical hospital located in Rockland County, NY. Founded in 1895, it is a member of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System, an affiliate of Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and has partnered with Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine providing clinical rotations to third-year medical students. Its mission is to provide competent, innovative and accessible emergency and acute care services to the residents of Rockland County and surrounding areas.