Sleep Apnea

Sumit Patel, MD, sleep medicine specialist at CHI Memorial Buz Standefer Lung Center

Sumit Patel, MD, sleep medicine specialist at CHI Memorial Buz Standefer Lung Center


“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” — Irish proverb

Sleep is a vital part of maintaining a healthy mind and body. As you sleep, waste is cleared from your brain cells and your body is reenergized. Without high quality sleep, your risk of depression and high blood pressure increases and your ability to process and remember information is compromised. There are a host of negative consequences associated with disrupted sleep.

One major cause of inconsistent and ineffective sleep is called sleep apnea. Understanding sleep apnea is important because it can have long-term effects on your health if left untreated. Those effects include increasing your risk of hypertension, stroke, heart attack, depression and diabetes. And in patients with COPD, sleep apnea can lead to more frequent hospitalizations and exacerbations of symptoms.

Types of Sleep Apnea

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, a condition where the upper airway is partially or completely obstructed. These obstructions make your chest and abdominal muscles work harder to overcome the obstruction to in order to breathe. Central sleep apnea is a complete cessation of the respiratory drive – resulting in a lack of movement of the respiratory muscles. This type is seen mainly in people who are in severe heart failure, patients who take opiates, or those with neurological problems. Obstructive sleep apnea is sometimes idiopathic (meaning we don’t know the real cause).

Who’s at Risk?

The people who tend to be at greatest risk for sleep apnea include those who are 65 and older, male, obese patients, smokers and people with a family history of snoring or obstructive sleep apnea. The most common misconception about sleep apnea is that it only affects obese or overweight patients. While they are at higher risk, other factors like facial and neck anatomy play a role in individuals who are at a normal weight. What’s more, sleep apnea may be under diagnosed in women in part because they may experience different symptoms like insomnia, morning headaches, mood disturbances and lack of energy.

Could You Have Sleep Apnea?

If you’re reading this article and these symptoms sound familiar, you may have sleep apnea. To know for sure, the condition is diagnosed with a sleep test that’s performed in a sleep lab or with a home sleep apnea test. Both options can be ordered by a sleep specialist or any physician. Once you know for sure, the gold standard treatment is controlled positive airway pressure, commonly referred to as a CPAP machine. Thanks to newer models and updated technology of these devices, they are quieter and more comfortable than ever before. CPAP therapy is successful for most people, although some require more invasive procedures if the treatment is not tolerated.   

Are you or someone you love suffering with sleep apnea? Call CHI Memorial Regional Sleep Center at (423) 495-7378 to schedule an appointment. 

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