sleep apnea

Why Are You Sleepy?

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Do you wake up feeling tired? Have a strong urge to sleep during the day? Become drowsy while driving? Fall asleep while watching TV or a movie? Snore? Does your snoring keep your partner awake? Do you suddenly wake up during the night gasping for air or with a dry mouth?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you might have “obstructive sleep apnea” or OSA. This is a condition in which your airway becomes obstructed during sleep causing you to stop breathing normally. Because this happens while you sleep, you probably don’t know that you have OSA at all.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)?

OSA occurs when your muscles relax and allow the soft palate and tongue to close off your airway. This causes you to stop breathing several times during the night for up to 10 seconds or longer and produces a drop in the supply of oxygen to your brain. This cycle can be repeated 30 times or more each hour, all night. No wonder you wake up tired!

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OSA is serious and, if untreated, can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, depression, lack of sexual desire, heart disease, heart attack, dementia, or even stroke. OSA deprivers you of deep, restorative sleep (commonly referred to as REM or “rapid eye movement” sleep) so necessary for good health.

Symptoms of OSA

Symptoms of OSA range from chronic fatigue or sleepiness during the day to snoring and consciously disrupted sleep at night. Common symptoms include

·      Feeling tired or exhausted upon awaking in the morning

·      Frequent drowsiness when engaged in normal activity during the day (driving while drowsy is a major cause of traffic accidents)

·      Depression or changes in mood during the day

·      Loud and frequent snoring that sometimes awakens your partner

·      Waking up while gasping for breath or choking

·      Dry mouth or morning headache

OSA is also associated with high blood pressure, lower sex drive, and weight gain.

Men suffer from OSA at 2 to 3 times the rate for women. Persons who are 30 or more pounds overweight or who have thick necks (17 inches or more in circumference) are susceptible to OSA because being overweight enlarges the soft tissue in the back of the throat.

OSA can afflict persons of any age, but it usually peaks between ages 40 and 60. Smokers experience sleep apnea at 3 times the rate for non-smokers.

A large majority of persons are unaware of having OSA and do not seek treatment for it. The cost to society of not treating OSA is significant since it results in traffic accidents, stroke, and heart attacks. That’s why truck drivers and others who need a commercial driver’s license are required to be screened and treated for OSA.

What Should You Do?

If you have trouble sleeping or have any of the above symptoms, you should be checked by your health care provider. At Kathy’s Urgent Care, we can help determine an appropriate course of action to cope with your individual situation.

Above all, do not self-medicate with alcohol or sleeping pills. Alcohol relaxes the muscles that control the soft tissue around your throat, making your problem worse. And most sleeping pills contain muscle relaxants that have the same effect. Using either will likely make your problem worse.

Depending on how severe your problem appears, we can recommend at-home testing kits or refer you to a sleep testing facility as needed. The home kits cost about $250, and some vendors accept insurance payment. Sleep testing facilities are more expensive and are usually covered, at least partially, by health insurance plans. Either route can give us the information needed to follow up.

While you might need assistive measures—CPAP or EPAP devices, dental appliances, etc.—quite often you can achieve good results simply by losing weight. Losing weight often controls snoring and can reduce or eliminate sleep apnea over time. Doing so, however, takes a while and can be difficult to achieve. We have learned that medically supervised weight control programs and changes in lifestyle are most effective in achieving permanent improvement. In most cases, surgery should be considered a last resort.

OSA can lead to very serious health issues and even cause death. Get checked by your health care provider and decide on a weight loss program or other measures to relieve your symptoms. Don’t put this off!

Remember that at Kathy’s Urgent Care, we can help with this and related health problems.

If you’ve had experience with OSA and various treatment options or if you have questions or opinions about OSA, please leave a comment below.

Healthy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all dads! I hope your day will be has enjoyable as mine.

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This is also a good time to remember that June is Men’s Health Month. If you haven’t had a physical exam for a while, it’s a good time to get checked out. After all, your kids and other family members would like to celebrate many more Father’s Days with you!

Here are 5 things that can quickly improve your health and help you live longer.

1.     Lose the Smokes

We all know that smoking can lead to cancer. It also leads to heart disease and respiratory problems. So, if you smoke, stop.

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And while you’re at it, cut back on alcohol. No need to grow a beer belly or enlarge the one you have. Besides, alcohol is a depressant, and that doesn’t help your mental or emotional health.

2.     Eat Healthy

Summer is the time for steaks on the grill, but don’t forget the veggies. Increasing green vegetables while reducing the size and frequency of red meat will do wonders for your health, your waistline, and your mood. And it wouldn’t hurt to limit intake of carbs such as bread, potatoes, and processed snacks. Eat fresh!

3.     Exercise Smart

Couch potatoes and guys who sit at desks all day shorten their lives. Don’t succumb to the so-called “sitting disease.” Stand up, move around, even a little. Go for walks. Start a cardio workout routine (check with your health care provider). Include strength-building activity.

Also remember that smart exercise includes stretching, flexibility, and meditation. As we age, we begin to lose flexibility and mobility. Yoga and controlled breathing can help to increase and preserve a higher quality of life.

4.     Get Quality Sleep

More men than women have difficulty breathing and, therefore, sleeping at night. Many suffer from sleep apnea, a very serious and potentially deadly disorder. You might not even know that you have it. Snoring is a common symptom, and your spouse or partner can probably tell you if you snore. If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, have a specialist examine you immediately.

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Beyond that, you can follow a routine that will result in better quality sleep. Go to bed at the same time each night. Reduce screen time on computers, mobile devices, or TV before bedtime. Avoid alcohol and caffeine late at night. Many other suggestions are published online that people have found helpful.

5.     Get Checked Out

Finally, guys, when did you have your last medical checkup? More than a year ago? Then you’re due for a visit to Kathy’s Urgent Care!

Get a thorough physical exams. We’re open 7 days a week and during evenings. No appointment needed! And we accept most insurance plans. So don’t put it off any longer. Give yourself and your family a great gift during Men’s Health Month and let us help you enjoy better health this Father’s Day and for years to come!

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Authored by Dr. Tom Brown