What can be more relaxing than a good night's sleep after a long day of work? But with the rising number of people affected with sleep disorders, it remains a distant dream for many. One of the common sleep disorders is sleep apnea. “Globally, around 6-8percentage of men and 3-4% of women are affected by it,” says Dr M S Kanwar, Senior Consultant Respiratory and Critical Care and Founder, Apollo Sleep Disorder Institute, Delhi.
What is sleep apnea?
Mayo Clinic describes the condition to cause one to repeatedly stop and start breathing while asleep.” There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is now in news after the veteran singer-composer Bappi Lahiri passed away this morning due to the disorder. According to WebMD, “ Obstructive sleep apnea usually happens when the muscles that control your airway relax too much, narrowing your throat. You wake up for a moment to reopen your airway, but you probably won’t remember doing it. This might happen dozens of times each hour.” The obstruction leads to a drop in the oxygen level in the body, which can be fatal in extreme cases.
Sleep apnea in Kerala
While this is a condition that can affect anyone, people with obesity, hypothyroidism and Cushing disease or heredity of the disorder are more prone to it. “Habits like alcoholism and smoking can also add to it,” says Dr Sabir MC, Senior Consultant Pulmonologist, Baby Memorial Hospital, Kozhikode. He says that there is a lack of awareness about this disorder in Kerala and so the number of people who seek treatment is very low. “It is usually identified when people come for some other disease,” he explains.
A prominent sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring and therefore it will be first noticed by spouses or others in the family. “Some of the other symptoms include fatigue, feeling sleepy throughout the day, memory loss, headache, dry mouth etc. People with physical features like short neck, thick tongue and a retracted jaw are also likely to have this disorder,” explains Dr Kanwar.
Other than affecting the quality of sleep, sleep apnea can affect memory, concentration and can lead to anxiety and depression. “It can be dangerous as it can also lead to stroke and heart attacks I have had cases where patients causing accidents as they tend to doze off while driving,” says Dr Sabir.
Doctors use a sleep study called Polysomnography, to analyse the patients. According to Dr Sabir, this involves different tests and helps to determine the severity of the case “We use Apnea-Hypopnea Index to analyse the patients. Anyone above the rate of five has the condition and those above 30 need immediate treatment.”
One of the most popular treatment methods is the usage of a device called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) and oral appliances. Another is correction through surgery.