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If you snore, you could be close to dying because of Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea is the not so silent killer -- an estimated 1 of every 6 Americans quit breathing, choking to death every night. This Snoring monster causes high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, depression and increased death rates in addition to the damage that constant sleep deprivation and chronic fatigue bring to your life.

What is Sleep Apnea?

The most common kind of sleep apnea is called Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome. Sleep apnea means "cessation of breath." It is characterized by repetitive episodes of upper airway obstruction that occur during sleep, usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen saturation. In other words, the airway becomes obstructed at several possible sites. The upper airway can be obstructed by excess tissue in the airway, large tonsils, a large tongue and usually includes the airway muscles relaxing and collapsing when asleep. Another site of obstruction can be the nasal passages. Sometimes the structure of the jaw and airway can be a factor in sleep apnea.

Insomnia & Jet Lag

Travel through time zones throws off our normal daily rhythms. Our body clock becomes out of whack and keeps us up at night. Given the 21st century lifestyle of many of us, there is a real need to have techniques and products to keep up at our best when we travel. We can banish jet lag with the smart use of supplements, exercise and devices like light therapy and dark glasses. By doing this, we can control the sleep hormone, melatonin and minimize the jet lag effects of time (zone) travel.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The major symptom is cessation of breathing. Depending on the length of time denotes the severity and risk. The actual Apnea Sufferer will not realize that he/she quits breathing; normally, the partner does. Other symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, morning headaches, unrefreshing sleep, dry mouth upon awakening, frequent night time snorting, gasping, choking which might wake oneself up and high blood pressure. Associated factors with Sleep Apnea include difficulty concentrating, confusion upon awakening, frequent night time urination, heartburn, diabetes, depression, rapid weight gain and loss of libido. If you experience any of these, you should examine your sleep further.

How serious is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

It is a potentially life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. The risks of undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnea include heart attacks, strokes, impotence, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, obstructive sleep apnea causes daytime sleepiness that can result in accidents, lost productivity and interpersonal relationship problems. The severity of the symptoms may be mild, moderate or severe.

How does the doctor determine if I have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

A sleep test, called polysomnography is usually done to diagnose sleep apnea. There are two kinds of polysomnograms. An overnight polysomnography test involves monitoring brain waves, muscle tension, eye movement, respiration, oxygen level in the blood and audio monitoring. (for snoring, gasping, etc.) The second kind of polysomnography test is a home monitoring test. A Sleep Technologist hooks you up to all the electrodes and instructs you on how to record your sleep with a computerized polysomnograph that you take home and return in the morning. They are painless tests that are usually covered by insurance.

How is Sleep Apnea treated?

Mild Sleep Apnea is usually treated by some behavioral changes. Losing weight, sleeping on your side are often recommended. There are oral mouth devices (that help keep the airway open) on the market that may help to reduce snoring in three different ways. Some devices (1) bring the jaw forward or (2) elevate the soft palate or (3) retain the tongue (from falling back in the airway and blocking breathing). Sleep Apnea is a progressive condition (gets worse as you age) and should not be taken lightly. Moderate to severe Sleep Apnea is usually treated with a C-PAP (continuous positive airway pressure). C-PAP is a machine that blows air into your nose via a nose mask, keeping the airway open and unobstructed. For more severe apnea, there is a Bi-level (Bi-PAP) machine. The Bi-level machine is different in that it blows air at two different pressures. When a person inhales, the pressure is higher and in exhaling, the pressure is lower. Your sleep doctor will "prescribe" your pressure and a home healthcare company will set it up and provide training in its use and maintenance.

The Unexpected Apnea Patient

Anyone can be at risk. Whether you are old or young, in great shape or overweight, anyone can have sleep apnea. It can occur in your youth or wait until middle age to start choking you at night. Most experts know that it is more prevalent as we get older and gain weight; however, they would be wrong in some cases. I know. Even though I had studied sleep for close to 20 years at the time; even though I had just recently written materials published on the sleep crisis in America, including the dangers of Sleep Apnea, I was completely unaware and caught off-guard when my girlfriend told me "you stop breathing sometimes at night -- and it scares me". You should be scared, too. I will tell you the whole story and more.....