Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Do you have Sleep Apnea?

I guess the first question should be, "Do you know what sleep apnea is?".

Amazingly, despite its clear causal association with hypertension, memory disorders, and obesity and the associated increased risk of sudden death, motor vehicle accidents and depression, many folks with sleep apnea don't know what it is.

Put simply, sleep apnea involves a person repeatedly stopping breathing during sleep which in turn causes them to not enjoy restorative sleep and to have low levels of oxygen in their bloodstream.

There are 3 types of sleep apnea: Obstructive, central and mixed with obstructive being far and away the most common and the one directly related to weight with the weight of a neck actually causing collapse or narrowing of upper airways during sleep.

Testing usually involves suffering through a terrible night's sleep at a sleep lab (though I'm sure some are lovely and don't involve trying to sleep through the chaos of a hospital) and then treatment usually involves sleeping with something called a CPAP mask that uses air under pressure to continually keep airways open.

Folks with successfully CPAP treated sleep apnea will almost always report that they can't imagine ever living without their CPAP machine because it has so dramatically improved their quality of life.

A person with sleep apnea might complain of NEVER feeling well rested, morning headaches, memory disturbances and daytime sleepiness. Their partner might complain of loud snoring (though snoring is not a must) or actual witnessed apnea events where they watch their partner stop breathing for up to a minute at a time.

The problem in Canada is that sleep labs are sometimes difficult to get to, especially in rural areas. Recently a company in Canada invented something they call a "Sleep Strip" which is actually a very sophisticated device that helps to screen for sleep apnea in your own home. It's the device pictured at the top of this post and it's available for sale at their website for $49.99.

[Hat tip: Robert]

UPDATE: Robert tells me that it's actually NOT a Canadian invention but rather an Israeli one.