Sleep apnea affects millions of people, increasing the risks of heart disease and stroke, yet it's often undiagnosed. In North Arlington, NJ, internist Dr. Sheremet Gashi works with sleep disorder specialists to provide in-depth analysis of sleep problems and individualized treatment or referrals for testing for sleep apnea, helping patients enjoy restorative sleep and improved health and wellness.
Sleep apnea (also called obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) is a chronic sleep disorder that causes breathing to be interrupted during sleep. These interruptions occur when the soft tissues at the back of the throat relax and descend into the airway, blocking the normal flow of air. Interruptions can occur dozens or even hundreds of times a night, and are often so subtle they don't cause full wakefulness, which means many people can have the condition without knowing it. Some people may wake gasping for breath or experiencing choking sensations. Although sleep apnea often causes snoring, it can occur without snoring; likewise, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is one of the most common types of sleep disorders, affecting thousands of men and women.
Sleep apnea has been linked with multiple serious medical issues, including increased risks for:
Most people with sleep apnea and other sleep problems experience daytime drowsiness that can interfere with productivity and can also increase the risk of car accidents and other serious accidents. Sleep apnea also increases moodiness and irritability.
Diagnosis of sleep apnea and other sleep issues usually begins with a physical exam followed by a sleep study, typically conducted in a special sleep lab. During the study, respiration, heart rate, brain activity and other factors are closely monitored by a sleep technician. Some sleep studies can be conducted at home while the patient wears special monitors. Once the study is complete, a report of the results is sent to the doctor so treatment can be prescribed.
Sleep apnea can sometimes be treated with mouth guards designed to move the jaw slightly forward to help keep the airway open during sleep. Many patients benefit from CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) therapy, which uses a device worn over the nose and mouth to deliver a continuous stream of air throughout sleep, helping to prevent airway collapse. Minimally invasive surgical procedures are also available.