This page will be devoted to Sleep Apnea and the issues surrounding it.
What is sleep apnea?(Also commonly referred to as obstructive sleep apnea or OSA) Sleep Apnea is a condition where your breathing is interrupted repeatedly throughout sleep. This interruption occurs mainly because of an obstruction to the airways and is brief. The obstruction occurs when muscles in the back of the throat relax and cause a collapse of tissue resulting in closing of the airway. Apnea literally means "without breath", but is defined by Medicare as a cessation of airflow for at least 10 seconds. Hypopneas are defined by Medicare as "an abnormal respiratory event lasting at least 10 seconds associated with at least a 30% reduction in thoracoabdominal movement or airflow as compared to baseline, and with at least a 4% decrease in oxygen saturation."
What are the effects of sleep apnea?Sleep Apnea can have many devasting effects. The first realized effect will be extremely fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels which will lead almost immediately to daytime sleepiness, snoring, morning headaches, as well as mood and memory problems. Eventually, this can lead to hypertension/high blood pressure, weight gain, stroke, diabetes, frequent urination, and depression.
How do I know I have sleep apnea?The only definitive way (for insurance purposes) is to take a sleep study (polysomnography). While almost everyone will experience some reduction or cessation in airflow while they sleep which may even qualify as an apnea or hypopnea you are generally not considered to have sleep apnea unless you have at least 5 of these events per hour. However, physicians and insurances (including Medicare) usually don't begin prescribing or authorizing therapy unless you are experiencing 15 or more events per hour.
There are some indicators though which include the effects listed above. Other indicators may be snoring, gasping for breath at night, waking up frequently, feeling like you're being choked, falling asleep quickly and/or at inappropriate times (at work, driving, watching TV, etc.)
What happens to me when I have an apnea (apneic event)?The first thing that happens is that you stop or partially stop breathing. Following this is a drop in your blood oxygen levels due to a lack of oxygen in your lungs. Your brain will sense these things and will force you to wake up and start breathing again. You will then most likely fall right back to sleep and repeat the same process over and over again throughout your sleep period.