Apnea is the combination of two Greek words, (a and pnea) meaning (“a”) without and (“pnea”) air. Sleep apnea refers to the loss of air movement during sleep. This results in a depletion of oxygen and a build up of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood.
- Could you have Sleep Apnea? Take the Quiz – the OSA Six
- View our Guide to Sleep Apnea (PDF)
Stages of Sleep Apnea
Snoring is the most obvious event associated with sleep apnea and results from turbulent air flow in a narrow airway. Airway collapse (apnea) is caused by negative air pressure (vacuum). This vacuum develops when air moves through a restricted space at high speed. The more severe the restriction, the louder the snoring becomes and the more likely apnea is to occur. When the throat collapses like a pinched straw on inspiration, carbon dioxide levels rise and oxygen levels decrease, resulting in arousal. The patient will simply lighten their sleep for a few seconds (arousal), open the airway to breathe and return to sleep, only to resume snoring and repeat the apnea cycle about once per minute. Therefore, in more severe cases, it is possible for a person to experience 500 to 600 episodes of sleep apnea each night. The bed partner becomes aware of this problem because of pauses in air flow that are followed by gasping. They may become concerned that their mate is about to die in their sleep from either not breathing or choking.
What are the effects of obstructive sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a progressive disease. Mild snoring converts gradually to sleep apnea as more negative pressures are created because of weight gain, aging, etc. Initially this may be only a few apneas per night. As the number of apneic events increases, both physical and mental symptoms develop. These are usually not noted until there are at least 50 or more events per night.
These are several symptoms which indicate the possible presence of apnea:
- Weight gain
- Fitful sleep
- Tired appearance
- Loud snoring
- Mumbling in sleep
- Drooling on the pillow
- Frequent urination at night
These cognitive (mental) dysfunctions may be present:
- Poor concentration
- Inappropriate asleep
- Poor memory
- Increased irritability
- Chronic fatigue
- Decreased libido
- Some depression
- Rapid sleep onset
- Avoidance of social events
- Awakening with a headache
- Sweating in sleep
Long-term effects of sleep apnea include:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, stroke, angina pectoris (chest pains) and hypertension – People with OSA are 4 times more likely to have heart attack
- Impaired performance at work and home – OSA individuals are more likely to have sexual impotence and develop diabetes
- 90% of stroke victims also suffer from OSA
- OSA patients have 40% greater chance of having depression
Symptoms may vary among patients, but most will have several of the above complaints. These problems are generally reversible with treatment.
The following providers offer sleep apnea services:
Dr. William Vitalie
The following locations offer sleep apnea services:
Indiana and Pittsburgh