Archive for March 2008

drowsy-driver.jpg   People with obstructive sleep apnea have a markedly increased risk of severe motor vehicle crashes involving personal injury. The study of 800 people with sleep apnea and 800 with a nighttime breathing disorder found that patients with sleep apnea were twice as likely as people without sleep apnea to have a car crash, and three to five times as likely to have a serious crash involving personal injury. Overall, the sleep apnea group had a total of 250 crashes over three years, compared with the 123 crashes in the group without sleep apnea.

  drowsyy-driver-deterent.jpg While many previous studies have shown that sleep apnea patients are not increased risk of car crashes, this study is the first to look at the severity of those crashes. Upon comparison, many of the sleep apnea patients’ crashes involved personal injury, but that some patients had fairly mild sleep apnea were at increased risk car crashes. Based on those findings, it is now considered driving risk when deciding on treatments for patients with mild sleep apnea.

  tired-sleepy-driver.gif The study is the biggest one to combine validated sleep apnea diagnosis through an overnight sleep study called polysonography, with data from insurance records to verify motor vehicles crashes and their severity. In obstructive sleep apnea, the upper airway narrows, or collapses, during sleep. Periods of apnea end with a brief partial arousal that may disrupt sleep hundreds of times throughout the night. Obesity is a major risk factor for sleep apnea            

snoring-smiling-face.jpg This study also found that while in the general population men have more vehicle crashes than women, among sleep apnea patients, men and women actually crash at a similar rate. Although, the issue of treatment is not addressed by this study, data from other groups suggest that crashes related to sleep apnea are preventable.

Sleep disorders cause more than just sleepiness- a lack of restorative rest can cause accidents on the job, and on the road; affect your relationships, health, and mental prowness; and make you feeling generally “disconnected” to the world around you.

 Getting a good night’s sleep is essential for feeling refreshed and alert during the day. Did you know that the average adult needs eight hours of uninterrupted sleep every night in order to maintain optimal mental and physical health? Unfortynately, not everyone is able to get the restorative eight hours they need. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, over 40 million Americans a year will suffer from some sort of sleep disorder – many whom will go undiagnosed, or turn to over-the-counter sleep aids for relief. However, ignoring the underlying causes, or covering the symptoms with drugs usually makes the problem worse. And untreated sleep disorders can even be hazardous to your health – a British study released in September 2007 found that people who do not get enough sleep are twice as likely to die of heart disease. Luckily, through proper testing, diagonsis and care, sleep disorders can be managed and overcome. Particular behaviors durning normal daytime activities are telltale signs of sleep deprivation.

 *Sleep apnea is a common disorder that can be very serious, and even life threatening. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping. Each pause in breathing typically lasts 10 to 20 seconds or more. These pauses can occure 20-30 times or more an hour. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. During sleep, enough air cannot flow into your lungs through your mouth and nose, even though you try to breathe. When this happens, the amount of oxygen in your blood may drop.  Normal breaths then start again with a loud snort or choking sound.

 Warning signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Frequent cessation of breathing (apnea) during sleep. Your sleep partner may notice repeated silences from your side of the bed.
  • Choking or gasping durning sleep to get into the lungs.
  • Loud snoring.
  • Sudden awakening to restart breathing.
  • Waking up in a sweat during the night.
  • Feeling un-refreshed in the mornign after a night’s sleep.
  • Headaches, sore throat, or dry mouth in the mornings after waking up.
  • Daytime sleepiness, including falling asleep at inappropriate times, such as during driving or at work.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is the obtruction of your tounge as you relax while you sleep, and it presses up against the back of the throat, creating a resistance, where air cannot pass through the nose or mouth.

 apnea-blocked.jpg apnea-open.jpg

  Centeral Sleep Apnea (CSA) is a far more rare type of apnea, which is when the brain signal that instructs the body to breathe is delayed. This centeral nervous system disorder can be caused by injury to the breainstem, disease, or a chronic respiratory disease. People with CSA seldom snore, which makes it even harder to diagnose, as they do not fitthe “normal” profile of a sleep apnea sufferer. The treatments of CSA include specific medications taht stimulate the need to breathe and administration of oxygen.         



     Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of the two types of sleep apnea. A person with mixed sleep apnea will often snore, but finds that treatments, which only help obstructions in the airways, do not completely stop apnea episods. treatment usually includes a combination of the treatments for both OSA and CSA.

  What happens when you stop breathing during sleep?              

                          If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during sleep, and the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood is upset. This imbalance stimulates the brain to restart the breathing process. The brain signals you to wake up so that the muscles of the tongue and throat can increase the size for the airway. Then, carbon dioxide can escape, and oxygen can enter the airway.  These waking episodes are necessary to restart breathing (and save your life), but because of them, you become sleep-deprived.

sleep-deprived.jpgSleep Deprivation, both the person with sleep apnea and the bed partner suffer from sleep deprivation. A bed partner may lose an hour or more of sleep each night form sleeping next to a person with sleep apnea. Along with the apnea episodes, the person afflicted with sleep apnea may have additional trouble sleeping caused by side effects of the  condition, including a frequent need to get up and urinate during the night, and excessive sweating.  Some trickle-down effects of sleep deprivation are a compromised immune system, poor mental and emotional health, irritability, and slower reaction time, among other problems.

 In fact, a report in 2000 compiled by the U.S National Commission on Sleep Disorders shows that almost one out of ten people suffer from some sort of sleep and energy deprivation disorder.  Just from those statistics, that means, in America, as of July 2005, thats about 29,573,43 people (29 million!) have some sort of serious sleeping problem.  Thats almost twice the population of most small countries.

 A major and highly focused upon reaction of sleep deprivation is depression. Approximately one in five people who suffer from sleep apnea also suffer from depression. Existing depression may also be worsened by sleep apnea. While it is not clear whether the apnea causes the depression or vice-versa, studies show that by treating sleep apnea symptoms, depression may be alleviated in some people. Keeping a journal of your sleep patterns and how you feel after not having adequate amount of sleep, and taking it to your doctor will help you conquer your sleep disorder and your depression.