In today’s fast-paced society, many people think it is OK to forego getting enough sleep. Whether it’s due to stress, lifestyle choices or chronic sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, it’s important to know that these problems are preventable or treatable. Unfortunately, less than a third of sufferers seek professional help.
Sleep disorders can lead to more than just daytime drowsiness. According to a study in the journal Thorax, serious consequences can occur that include health risks, economic troubles and even a higher rate of unemployment. According the National Sleep Foundation, the most common sleep disorders include:
* Circadian rhythm sleep disorders (shift work, jet lag)
* Parasomnias (sleepwalking, night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder, sleep-related eating)
* Hypersomnia (insufficient sleep, narcolepsy)
* Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
OSA is the most common form of sleep-disordered breathing, and affects approximately five to six percent of the adult population. Individuals who suffer from this condition stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, but are generally not aware of it. More than half of all people who have sleep apnea remain undiagnosed, according the National Institutes of Health.
OSA can occur in men, women, and children of all ages; however, it is more common in men and people who are overweight. OSA is caused by a blocking of the upper airway. The collapse of the airway may be due to such factors as a large tongue, extra tissue or decreased muscle tone. Each pause in breathing can last from 10 seconds to more than a minute and a drop in oxygen is associated with each event.
Symptoms of OSA can include loud and disruptive snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, memory or learning problems, feeling irritable, and not being able to concentrate on work. Additional symptoms to watch for include mood swings or personality changes, waking up with dry throat and frequent urination at night.
Due to a lack of awareness by the public and health care professionals, the vast majority of OSA sufferers remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated. Sleep-related respiratory disturbances like OSA and loss of quality of sleep can lead to numerous health problems such as hypertension, heart disease, stroke and diabetes. They can also lead to lack of attention, decreased work and academic productivity and even motor vehicle accidents.
In addition to all of the health implications, OSA also has an economic impact on sufferers. The annual economic cost of moderate to severe OSA in the United States is estimated to be $65 to $165 billion, which is greater than asthma, heart failure, stroke and hypertensive disease, according to a Harvard Medical School study. The same study found that unmanaged OSA can also lead to poor on the job performance, unhappy marriages and even divorce, which can all impact personal finances.
One of the main treatment options for OSA is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). The therapy provides a gentle flow of pressured air through the nose and/or mouth using a mask. The air pressure prevents airway collapse, allowing the user to breathe freely during sleep. This noninvasive therapy can alleviate the symptoms of OSA when used as prescribed.
As the third pillar of good health, sleep is essential to a leading a healthy life. If you think you or someone you know may suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), visit www.philips.com/worldsleepday to get your screening and learn more.