Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder affecting up to 20 percent of the population. It is a condition where the throat, above the voice box/Adam’s Apple, closes off during sleep. The patient is frequently tired during the day, sleeping at inappropriate times.
During sleep, a person with sleep apnea usually snores loudly along with gasping and choking spells. One of the best tests may be a complaint by your bed partner that you snore loudly or that you stop breathing repeatedly while you are asleep.
Other risk factors for sleep apnea include hypertension, being male, older than 50, moderately to severely overweight and having a neck size greater than 16 inches in women and 17 inches in men.
STOP BANG is an easy way to remember the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Tired, Fatigued, or Sleepy during the daytime (such as falling asleep during driving)
Observed Breathing Stoppage or Choking/Gasping during your sleep
Pressure - being treated for High Blood Pressure?
Body Mass Index more than 35 kg/m2
Age older than 50
Neck size large
Gender = Male
If you believe you or a loved one has these symptoms, or is concerned you might have sleep apnea, it is important to get tested and subsequent treatment. The complications of sleep apnea include increased risk of motor vehicle accidents, hypertension, heart disease and stroke. Start by talking with your physician who can send you for a sleep study from a Sleep Center certified by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine like the UNC Regional Physicians Sleep Center.
Not so interested in sleeping overnight in a sleep lab? Now you have the Home Sleep Study option. Home sleep testing is intended for patients who believe they have apnea, but who are otherwise healthy and have no major medical problems like diabetes and heart disease. Once ordered by the physicians, the patient would go into a certified Sleep Center where a specially trained sleep technician will prepare the device and instruct the patient on its use. It takes only a few minutes. Not more involved than a simple finger probe, chest belt and nose piece. The patient then goes home to bed. After sleeping, the device is removed and returned to the Sleep Center. The results are scored and reviewed by a board certified sleep specialist who then shares the results with the ordering physician. The cost is significantly less than an in-lab study and is covered by most insurance.
Sleep apnea is treatable, but often goes unrecognized and untreated. Learning how to identify the warning signs, how to distinguish it from normal snoring, is the first step to overcoming sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep.
Gregory Mieden, MD, PhD is the Sleep Center Medical Director and a practicing neurologist at UNC Regional Physicians Neuroscience Center. Dr. Mieden received his medical degree from the University of Maryland, and served his residency training at Johns Hopkins University, and University of Maryland. He also holds a PhD in anatomy from the University of Wisconsin. Dr. Mieden is certified by the American board of Psychiatry and Neurology and is a diplomat with the American board of Sleep Medicine. He has been working at High Point Regional and UNC Regional Physicians for more than 23 years. To make an appointment with Dr. Mieden or for an in-lab or home sleep study, call (336) 887-3091.