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What is sleep apnea?

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More than occasional snoring, sleep apnea is sleep deprivation caused by an obstruction that usually requires CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment.

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More than snoring, sleep apnea is a disorder directly related to trouble sleeping.

Sleep apnea is a medical condition shared by millions. It affects a person when sleeping and impairs his or her breathing. Unlike “regular” snoring, sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a specific disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing (or very shallow breaths) while you sleep. These breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 or more times per hour. Typically, after a pause, normal breathing starts again—much of the time accompanied by a loud snort or choking sound—then the snoring. Sleep apnea isn’t defined from a single source or condition. Here are the three most common definitions:

Central Sleep Apneaa form of sleep apnea in which the brain momentarily fails to signal your muscles to breathe.

obstructive Sleep Apneaa form of sleep apnea in which the airways become partially or completely blocked.

Mixed Sleep Apneaa form of sleep apnea in which a patient suffers from a combination of Central & obstructive  Sleep Apneas.

What are the sleep apnea symptoms?

The fact that this happens during sleep is precisely why so many people with this condition remain undiagnosed. Many times, those with sleep apnea will not think they suffer from 
a serious snoring disorder. Usually this condition is “diagnosed” when a partner or spouse complains about being kept awake at night. It’s understandable that often people confuse snoring with sleep-related apneas and for that reason rarely go to see a specialist. The fact is, sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Unfortunately, no blood test can help diagnose sleep apnea. Some symptoms to look out for include abrupt awakenings during sleep, sore throat upon waking up, morning headaches and excessive daytime sleepiness. Attention problems throughout the day and irritability could also be signs of sleep apnea.

Do I need a sleep apnea test?

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive​ sleep apnea. This is when the upper airway becomes blocked or partly obstructed. This obstructive is mostly caused by the relaxation of the muscles of the throat during sleep. In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked, disrupting one’s regular sleep—causing shallow breathing or pauses.

Obstructive  sleep apnea (OSA) can be found in people of all ages, body types and gender. If you are male, overweight and over 40, your risk of suffering from sleep apnea (OSA) is highly increased. Since OSA comes from different conditions, it’s important to be tested. The results will help define which type (there are several) you have and which sleep apnea treatment is needed.

The sleep study test (Nocturnal Polysomnography) requires the person to be admitted to a sleep clinic or a hospital environment. Another option for testing (though not as informative or specific) can be performed in one’s own bed with a Home Sleep Study test. The sleep clinic test measures heart rate, blood pressure, eye movements, muscle movements, blood oxygen levels and respiratory movements while one sleeps. Testing can help diagnose which (if any) condition or disorder is apparent during the sleeping cycles.

Remember, sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery and breathing devices can successfully treat sleep apnea. 

NIV. Though Non-Invasive Ventilation is not a treatment for sleep apnea, there are some similarities.

What is NIV? Sleep apnea is treated Non-Invasively with CPAP or Bi-Level therapies, however, these therapies are not considered NIV.

NIV (Non-Invasive Ventilation) is a method of assisting one’s breathing with a mask without using an invasive airway device—like an endotracheal or tracheotomy tube. NIV is usually prescribed to patients with severe COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Though some of the symptoms are similar, NIV is different. During NIV treatment, the patient usually wears a tightly fitting nasal or facial mask that is attached via tubing to a portable ventilator. With a tight seal created between one’s face and mask, the ventilator produces a rapid flow of air passing down the tube to the mask. The effect of the air passing through a small valve creates a backpressure that is transmitted to the patient’s lungs, thus opening the airways and allowing air or oxygen to enter. An NIV treatment program allows for adjustments in pressure—from continuous to intermittent.