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What's keeping you up at night?

We can live for weeks without food, days without water, but only minutes without oxygen. The term sleep apnea has become common. Many think if you snore, you just have to live with it. During sleep, the upper airway relaxes and can become partially collapsed resulting in snoring. During obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) this partial collapse progresses to a point where there is not enough airflow to support the oxygen needs of the body. The reduced airflow causes gasps and snorts in an effort to breathe deeper and support your body's needs. In some people, these events become a total collapse of the airway resulting in no oxygen for a few seconds or up to a minute. These events prevent productive sleep and can have a long-term impact on your health.

Why is productive sleep important? Sleep is the key to our health, performance, safety and quality of life. It is as essential a component as good nutrition and exercise to optimal health. Recent national polls reveal that 40 percent of Americans are NOT getting the 7 to 9 hours recommended for optimal health. In addition, 35 percent of Americans report their sleep quality as poor or fair but only about 1 percent see a sleep specialist for treatment.

Sleep apnea can contribute to decreased memory, an increased risk of: Alzheimer's, increased inflammation, glaucoma (pressure in the eye), short term memory loss, Type 2 Diabetes and atrial fibrillation (a quivering or irregular heartbeat that can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other heart-related complications).

The main symptoms of OSA are daytime tiredness, snoring, and pauses in breathing during sleep. What can you do if you think you—or someone you love—might have sleep apnea? First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms and ask for an order for a sleep study. The sleep center at Cambridge Medical Center does not require a visit with a sleep specialist prior to testing (although some centers do). After your sleep study, you will meet with a sleep physician to get your test results and evaluate your treatment.

If OSA is diagnosed, there are several treatment options. A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is the gold standard for treatment of OSA. It is the most common treatment, is best covered by insurance and has a great history of success. Recent technology improvements have made the machines smaller and quieter with improved humidity and remote access for adjustments. The CPAP masks are also smaller, quieter and lighter. Although there are other treatments, the CPAP machine and mask continue to be the most common treatment with the best results.


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