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Are You Paying Dearly For Your Night's Sleep? 

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By Naga S. Chigurupati, MD, a fellowship trained pulmonary and critical care medicine physician with Sentara Medical Group. 

Not getting enough sleep can be inconvenient, to say the least. It can affect your mood and focus the next day. Researchers have learned that you can’t “catch up” on your sleep and productivity can be affected for up to several days following a sleepless night. But is missing a good night’s sleep more than that?

It could be. Sleep apnea is a serious condition affecting 1 in 10 Americans. Most commonly, blocked airways are to blame. The dreamer’s body rousts her from sleep long enough to restore breathing but low oxygen and sleep deprivation are common.

Most people with sleep apnea are not aware of the interruptions that can happen dozens of time per night and in extreme cases dozens of times per hour during sleep.

Under these sleepless conditions, the mind is not able to process information of the day. Attention to detail, accuracy, and memory are likely to suffer.

It's no surprise that people with sleep apnea report a less than rich quality of life. Daytime drowsiness, lack of energy, and falling asleep during working hours are just a few of the signs.

Is sleep apnea costing you too much? Untreated sleep apnea is among the leading causes of high blood pressure and normal blood sugar is difficult to maintain in people with untreated sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is also closely linked to higher risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke. For the first time, a new study also links moderate to severe sleep apnea with adverse pregnancy outcomes related to gestational diabetes and preterm birth rates.

Could you or your partner be among about 80% of people with sleep apnea left undiagnosed?
Keep a sleep diary – Record the number of hours you’re spending in bed, any nighttime awakenings, and whether you feel refreshed. Ask your sleep partner to keep track of your snoring, including how loud and frequent it is. If you're not waking up feeling refreshed, it may be helpful to have a sleep study and your sleep diary is more information for doctor.

Other signs to look for are:
• Loud snoring
• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Gasping for air while sleeping
• Pauses in breathing while sleeping
• Depression
• Forgetfulness

You owe yourself a good night’s sleep. If you have concerns, consider a sleep study at a nationally accredited sleep center. The risks of untreated sleep apnea are far too great to ignore.

Sleep apnea can be treated medically with a machine that helps keep airways open as you sleep. A continuous positive airflow pressure or CPAP machine often offers immediate relief. No bigger than a box of tissues, the CPAP includes a mask worn to provide a constant stream of air keeping your airways open while you sleep.

A good night’s sleep can be illusive but well worth the pursuit.

Related Links:
Sentara Sleep Centers

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Want to limit your risk of developing sleep apnea? Consider the following:

• Lose weight. Most people with sleep apnea are overweight or obese. Losing weight can help open airways and improve symptoms.

• Quit smoking. Smoking is believed to increase inflammation and fluid retention in your throat and upper airway, thereby blocking air flow.

• Avoid sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your side can allow easier breathing by preventing soft tissues from blocking your throat.

• Prop up. Elevating your bed or upper body can open the airways.

• Open your nasal passages. Try using a saline spray or breathing strips to open airways.

• Avoid alcohol or sleeping pills. These drugs can relax the muscles in the throat and interfere with breathing.

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