Do you wake up in the morning and still feel tired? Or is your partner complaining about your loud snoring? These might be symptoms from a stressful day at work, poor eating habits or allergies. If these symptoms are happening multiple times a week, they might be the result of a medical condition called sleep apnea. 

Classified as a sleeping disorder, sleep apnea stops you from breathing while you sleep. The number of people affected is growing and the initial symptoms can so easily be dismissed that you might not even know you have it.

 

Do I Have Sleep Apnea?

Common signs of sleep apnea include snoring, daytime sleepiness and mood changes. Sleep medicine is a newer specialty and not a primary focus of training in medical education. This means your primary care doctor may not ask you about signs and symptoms of sleep apnea. 

If you are having any of the symptoms above, be sure to talk to your doctor. While snorning only affects whoever you share a bed with, being sleeping during the day and mood changes can affect both your job and personal life. 

A 2013 study shows that the number of people with known sleep apnea continues to grow. The study revealed more men than women are affected. 

Often Sleep apnea is not treated because it is not identified.  85-90% of people with sleep apnea in the United States don’t realize they have it. 

Illness Linked To Sleep Apnea

Does a lack of sleep make it easier for me to get sick? The answer is yes and when you have sleep apnea, the quality of sleep you get can be so poor your health suffers. 

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that a lack of sleep has shown to have an effect on your body’s performance. When you don’t get enough sleep, your mind feels groggy, but there are more problems that happen and no level of caffeine will be able to fix. 

There is a link to adequate sleep and your body’s immune response. When you are sleep deprived, your immune system doesn’t always respond as it should. A recent article in U.S. News shared that severe sleep apnea is linked to premature death. 

While that link to premature death is for severe cases, it raises the question “How can mild sleep apnea affect me??  If left untreated, sleep apnea is linked the six illnesses below. 

High Blood Pressure

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Heart Disease

man in blue dress shirt with red tie clenching chest showing heart attack

Stroke

profession, people, health care, reanimation and medicine concept - group of medics or doctors carrying woman patient on hospital gurney to emergency

Memory Loss

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Obesity

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Insulin Resistance

doctor helping person check blood sugar with glucose meter for diabetes management and endocrinology

This is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes

Is Sleep Apnea Treatable?

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will have several concerns. Your body isn’t breathing correctly when you sleep. You start thinking ‘if I stop breathing for too long, will I wake up? Will my sleep apnea mean I cannot travel anywhere overnight anymore?” These are common fears but once you talk with your doctor about your next steps, you should feel better. 

If sleep apnea is diagnosed, it is not difficult to treat. If you think your snoring, daytime sleepiness or mood changes might be caused by sleep apnea, talk to your doctor and ask about participating in a sleep study (also called a polysomnography). Some people may be able to complete and sleep study at home.  NMC Health has a Sleep Disorder Center for those who require an in-lab test.

What is a CPAP Machine

If you have been diagnoses with sleep apnea, your doctor might direct you to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device. These machines pressurize air around you and deliver it to your mouth and nose through a face mask you wear while you sleep. This pressurized air helps keep your airway open and allows you to breath better and sleep better. 

When you look at the pictures of a CPAP device, you will probably think that they will be uncomfortable and stop you from sleeping. There will be a learning curve as you adjust to sleeping with the mask on your face, the noise from the machine and the pressure sensation the machine makes. 

Luckily, many of these CPAP machines have customizable masks and features that help you get use to wearing the mask. 

If you travel frequently, there are CPAP machines that you can buy. Be sure to talk with your doctor about your routines and if a battery operated CPAP device that is designed for travel is a better option for you. 

What services does NMC Health provide for sleep apnea?

If you suspect that you or your partner has sleep apnea, your first stop is to schedule an appointment with your family doctor. 

NMC Health has family medicine clinics in Valley Center, Hesston and Wichita. If your doctor agrees that you need to be evaluated for sleep apnea, they might refer you to the NMC Health Sleep Lab for a sleep study. To read more about how the sleep study works at NMC Health, click here

These sleep studies look at how you sleep by analyzing muscle movements, breathing patters and brain activity. If the results are conclusive and finds sleep apnea is the root of your symptoms, our team of doctors can set up a plan to help you. The sleep study at NMC Health requires a referral. If you need help obtaining a referral, call our office at 316.281.8200

What else could cause sleep problems besides sleep apnea?

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