My wife tells me that I snore while I sleep. Is this something to worry about?

Not everyone who snores has a serious medical condition. However, snoring is one symptom of a serious condition known as obstructive sleep apnea.  If you have other symptoms or problems with your sleep, you should talk to your family doctor about possible sleep apnea.

Besides snoring, what other symptoms would indicate that I have sleep apnea?

Snoring is an indicator, but there are several other symptoms that indicate obstructive sleep apnea.  If you answer “yes” to one these questions, you should be tested for sleep apnea:

  • Do you feel very sleepy or feel like nodding off during the day?
  • Does your partner tell you that you stop breathing during sleep?
  • Do you feel tired when you wake up?
  • Do you wake up with a headache?
  • Is it hard to stay awake while driving?
  • Do you have problems with your memory and with concentration?
What is obstructive sleep apnea anyway?

During sleep, our muscles relax.  If the muscles in your throat relax too much, the airway narrows or even closes completely. The airway is cut off, and you cannot breathe.  This causes a lack of oxygen to fuel the body, and your heart starts pumping more blood throughout the body.  After a period of time, your brain realizes there is a lack of oxygen, and alerts your body to wake up.  Even if you are not aware of it, you may wake up briefly hundreds of times during the night. You never actually fall completely asleep.

How common is obstructive sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder.  It is more common in men over the age of forty, but anyone from babies to senior adults of either sex can have the problem. In fact, sleep apnea is quite common in postmenopausal women. Around 10 percent of the population is estimated to have sleep apnea. 

Is sleep apnea dangerous?

If you have sleep apnea, your heart is working harder than it should to deliver oxygen.  This could lead to serious heart conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and congestive heart failure. Besides heart disease, sleep apnea has been linked to other serious life threatening conditions including stroke, COPD, and diabetes. Excessive tiredness due to sleep apnea is a factor in traffic accidents.

How can I know for sure that I have sleep apnea?

Your family doctor will order a sleep test in a sleep testing facility commonly known as a sleep lab. Patients are “tucked in” at night and monitored by equipment that shows sleep patterns. The sleep study takes 6 to 7 hours.  There is no need to travel out of town for the sleep study.  Jackson County Memorial Hospital has a sleep lab here in Altus. It is staffed by respiratory therapists trained specifically in sleep disorders.  Call 379-5240, for more information.

What is the treatment for obstructive sleep apnea?

Some surgical and dental procedures can be used to treat mild obstructive sleep apnea. However, the most simple, effective, and well-recognized treatment is a continuous positive airway pressure device.  (CPAP).

I have heard about a CPAP machine. What is it? How does it work?

A CPAP machine is a device that supplies a gentle air pressure that acts like a splint to keep the airway open during sleep.  You will wear a mask that seals either your nose, mouth, or both.  The air flows into the throat with enough pressure so that your throat does not close, and you keep breathing during the night.

I have heard the term “BiPap.” How is that different from a CPAP?

The CPAP delivers a constant pressure.  The BiPap, or bi-level machine, has two levels of pressure. There is a greater pressure when you inhale, and a lesser level when you exhale.

What kind of mask do I need?

Using the right mask is essential to the success of your CPAP treatment.  There are many types of masks from nasal to full-face. You need a mask that is comfortable and fits properly. It should form a good seal on your face so that air doesn’t leak out of the mask.  At Home Health Products, we spend time with you trying on various types and sizes of masks to find the one that fits your face and your sleep style. We will work with you and even let you try several different brands, styles, and sizes until you find the one that is most comfortable for you. If the first mask you take home does not work, we have a 30 day mask guarantee to help you choose a better mask.

How long will it take to get used to CPAP therapy?

Most people adjust to CPAP in one or two weeks.  Occasionally it may take a little longer if you are very sensitive to noise or the feel of the mask on your face.  Remember that using the CPAP will be worth the effort. You should notice an immediate improvement in your health. You will feel better and more alert during the day.

Won’t the air from the CPAP make my nose and throat dry?

A humidifier can add moisture to the air.  Humidifiers can be heated or non-heated according to your comfort level.  Also, the tubing can be fitted with heated wire to provide constant, unchanging humidity, if you desire.

Why do I feel that it is hard to breathe out when using CPAP?

When first using CPAP, most people find they experience a need to push against the airflow when they breathe out.  It may take a little time to get used to breathing out against the pressure.  Practice sessions in the daytime while relaxing or listening to music may help overcome this feeling.  If you still have difficulty breathing, it is important to consult with a qualified clinician regarding the matter as you may require your CPAP settings to be adjusted.

Will my insurance cover a CPAP?

Most insurances will cover CPAP therapy if the patient qualifies for the therapy through a sleep study.  Some insurances will cover an outright purchase of the machine.  Others will rent the machine up to a purchase price.  Medicare will rent the machine for thirteen months, and then the patient will own the machine.  Medicare and some other insurances require that the patient visit the doctor within 3 months and prove compliance with the therapy. Home Health Products can help you be compliant because our CPAP experts and clinicians are well versed in troubleshooting your specific needs.