Statistics from the National Sleep Foundation say that 18 million people in the United States have sleep apnea, a disorder that causes them to repeatedly stop and restart breathing. Pauses in breathing last at least ten seconds and occur when the muscles at the back of the throat collapse because of obstructions in the airways or because of faulty signals from the brain. The disorders are called obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea, depending on the cause.
Sleep apnea can cause sleeplessness and low oxygen levels, conditions that contribute to heart ailments, strokes, depression, and high blood pressure. It also causes daytime drowsiness and increases the chance of accidents. The disorder occurs in all age groups and is estimated to afflict as many as 10 or 20 percents of children who are habitual snorers.
What are the signs and symptoms os sleep apnea?
People who have sleep apnea may have the following symptoms:
- Chronic snoring
- Inability to concentrate
- Mood disorders
- Learning difficulties
- Memory problems
- Sexual dysfunction
- Daytime sleepiness
Early Reports of Sleep Apnea
The first references to sleep apnea showed up in medical literature around 1965, but doctors recognized the condition long before they knew its cause. The first cases reported severe apnea that resulted in elevated carbon dioxide, low levels of blood oxygen, and heart failure. In the early 1900s, a doctor described a condition he called Pickwickian syndrome, named after a character in Charles Dickens’ novel The Pickwick Papers. The symptoms were the same as those later identified as obstructive sleep apnea.
The First CPAP
The first treatment for sleep apnea that did not require surgery was the CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure device. It was developed in 1981. Within ten years, the noisy, clunky equipment had evolved into a quieter, smaller device.
Now that a treatment that worked was available to treat apnea, a movement to identify and reach people who needed the new therapy resulted in the appearance of sleep clinics around the country. In 1993, a study showed that one in fifteen people in the United States had some degree of apnea.
How the CPAP Works
Continuous positive airway pressure therapy uses a device to help a person who has sleep apnea breathe more freely while sleeping. The machine prevents throat muscles from collapsing by increasing the air pressure in the throat. It is used every night and comes with a mask that covers the face or the nose. A third type of mask has a pillow-like cushion that seals around the nostrils. CPAP machines provide fixed air pressure or air that adjusts automatically. Users often prefer the automatic model.
New Treatments and Research
Obstructive sleep apnea is a well-researched disorder, and sleep therapy with a CPAP is an effective means of alleviating the symptoms. Other therapeutic devices include surgery, mouth appliances, and lifestyle changes. Radio frequency ablation, a surgical procedure pioneered in 2013, has now became a minimally evasive and effective treatment option. It works by using heat to treat areas that make breathing difficult. Researchers are now working on a new device designed to be implanted into the chest, where it will alert a nerve in the jaw to keep air passages open.
The CPAP continues to be the gold standard in the treatment of sleep apnea, and studies show that good instruction from trained specialists encourages most individuals to use the devices regularly.
Valley Sleep Center Mission:
The mission of Valley Sleep Center is to deliver excellence in patient care. To achieve this goal, each of our facilities is dedicated to becoming the leading independent sleep diagnostic testing facility serving its community.
About Our Accreditation
AASM Accreditation of Sleep Disorders Centers is a voluntary process for the assessment of sleep programs. By achieving accreditation, a sleep disorders facility, stand-alone provider of Home Sleep Apnea Testing or Durable Medical Equipment provider demonstrates a commitment to the provision of quality diagnostic services and/or long-term management of sleep patients.