December 24, 2019

Is Sleep Apnea Affecting Your Life?

by Michael Kenneth | President, CPAP Machines Canada

You’ve heard of it and likely know people who suffer from it. Untreated, it makes you two to four times more likely to be involved in a car accident, 3.7 times more likely to suffer a stroke and fifty per cent more likely to suffer psychological distress. Roughly twenty-five per cent of Canadian adults suffer from some form of sleep apnea and yet only twenty per cent have been diagnosed. So what’s happening with this common but under-recognized condition?

While awake, our throat muscles act to keep our airway open, making breathing easy and natural. During sleep, our muscles — including those in our throat — relax. In some people, this causes the airway to narrow or close, obstructing airflow. When this happens, our heart rate and blood pressure increase, blood oxygen levels drop, adrenaline surges, and our brain wakes us up to kick-start breathing again. In severe cases, this cycle can happen over thirty times per hour, putting significant strain on our cardiovascular system and preventing the deep, restorative sleep we need to function the next day.

Common Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • irregular breathing during sleep (gasping, long pauses, shallow breathing)
  • high blood pressure
  • poor memory and concentration
  • snoring

Diagnosis

Simple cases of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can be diagnosed with a home sleep study, which requires the patient to wear a device in the comfort of their own bed. These devices measure airflow, blood oxygen saturation, respiratory effort, and heart rate, as well as positional data (time sleeping on your back, side, or front), which allows a specialist to identify the presence and severity of OSA. These results are used by your physician to confirm or rule out OSA and identify a course of action.

In some more complex cases, a physician may request a polysomnography study (PGS), which is an overnight sleep study performed in a sleep lab facility. A PGS involves the measurement of brain activity as well as physical observation from a trained sleep technologist, in addition to the indicators included in the home study.

Treating Sleep Apnea in 2019

The gold standard for treating sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. With CPAP, a small bedside device delivers positive airway pressure through a mask that you wear while you sleep. The air pressure acts as a splint to keep your airway open, preventing the collapse of the airway and allowing for full and normal breathing during sleep.

“Am I going to look like Darth Vader?!” This is a common concern we hear from new CPAP users. Many people have the image of wearing large face-covering masks with loud breathing machines beside their bed. Fear not! In 2019, CPAP machines can be almost as small as your iPhone, with masks that can sit comfortably under your nose. There are other new technological advances in CPAP therapy:

Travel CPAP machines

The AirMini from ResMed weighs in at just 0.66 pounds (300 grams) and measures 5.4 x 3.3 x 2.1 inches. Bluetooth capabilities provide you with a sleep report on your cell phone every morning, keeping you in touch with your therapy.

Wireless reporting

New CPAP machines include a wireless cellular modem built into the device. This modem allows your therapy provider to wirelessly view your sleep therapy data in real-time to help address any issues with mask fit or apnea events.

CPAP cleaners and sanitizers

These devices make daily CPAP cleaning easy, killing 99.9 per cent of bacteria throughout your CPAP system, prolonging equipment life and ensuring safe and effective therapy.

Lighter, smaller masks

CPAP masks come in a huge number of styles, ensuring a fit for everyone. Top-of-head connection, hollow frames, and under-the-nose cushions are just some of the newer developments in mask design, making CPAP therapy more comfortable and less invasive.

If you think you might suffer from sleep apnea, talk to your doctor today. Beyond the serious health consequences, you will see huge productivity and lifestyle benefits from starting treatment.