Obstructive sleep apnea
Do you have an interrupted sleeping pattern? Do you wake up in the morning with bad headache? Do you feel sleepy during the day? If your answer to all three questions is ‘yes’, you could be suffering from Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS). Although these signs may not strike you as a serious problem, you need to know that OSAS could possibly kill you.
According to an observational study that was recently conducted at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, about 97 percent of study participants (suffering from various cardiac problems) had significant sleep apnea and nearly 58 percent of them could be classified into the severe category of sleep apnea. It is widely believed that people with a high body mass index (BMI) are more prone to sleep apnea. However, this study showed no correlation between sleep apnea and BMI. This means that even patients who had a low BMI were at risk and had significant prevalence of the disease.
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a condition characterized by erratic breathing while sleeping. Because of interrupted breathing the oxygen levels in the blood drop significantly.
But there some factors that increase the risk of OSAS:
- Neck circumference greater than 1 inch or 40 cm
- Family history of OSAS
- Alcohol consumption
- Use of sleeping pills
- Sleep deprivation
OSAS also seems to have gender bias. Males are about three-nine times more likely to have OSAS than women. Risk factors for women include obesity and menopause.
A person who suffers from sleep apnea feels very sleepy during the daytime, often wakes up during the night, lacks focus and may experience general fatigue. The effects of the disease are not restricted to just these signs.
OSAS is diagnosed based on monitoring, recording and analysis of physiological parameters of the person thorough a sleep study or polysomnography that is undertaken by a trained professional. Polysomnography is an easy test that helps to differentiate sleep apnea from other sleep disorders.
Although OSAS was identified long back about more than three decades ago, till today physicians do not have any sort of formal training in identifying and treating the condition.
Currently, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the gold standard for the treatment of OSA. CPAP treats OSA by applying positive airway pressure through a nasal mask (as depicted in the image at the extreme right). This positive pressure acts as a pneumatic splint to hold the upper airway open throughout the entire breathing cycle. It is recommended that the level of positive airway pressure be determined for each patient during a sleep study. By providing a pneumatic splint, the positive pressure prohibits the airway from collapsing, ensuring that air flows freely to the lungs.
If left untreated, it can increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, Type II diabetes and hypertension. The relation between sleep apnea and heart problems like hypertension, cardiac failure, cardiac rhythm disorders, strokes, dyslipidemias, atherosclerosis and increased platelet activation is quite strong with about 3 decades of research back up.
The natural alternatives to sleep medication include -
- Herbal medicines
- Meditation and yoga
- Lifestyle changes
Here is detailed information on natural alternatives to sleep medication.