SSM Health Medical Minute: Snoring can be more serious than you think

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when something partially or completely blocks the upper airway during sleep, forcing the diaphragm and chest muscles to work harder to pull air into the lungs. OSA is a potentially life-threatening condition that can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, impaired concentration, mood changes and diabetes.

Common signs and symptoms of sleep disorders include:

• Snoring
• Gasping for air
• High blood pressure
• Excessive daytime sleepiness
• Irritability
• Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
• “Creepy-crawly” feeling in the legs when resting
• Any unusual activity that disturbs you, or your partner’s sleep
• Shift work sleep problems

Of the nearly 25 million adults affected by moderate or severe OSA, nearly 80 percent go undiagnosed and untreated. Snoring is the most common warning sign of OSA, but it can also include daytime sleepiness or fatigue, dry mouth or sore throat, headaches, night sweats, and restlessness during sleep. Children can also suffer from sleep apnea, and the symptoms aren’t always as obvious as what adults experience.

How do I know if I have a sleep disorder?
If you consistently feel tired during the day despite achieving adequate amounts of sleep, or routinely wake up feeling unrested, from inability to sleep you may have a sleep disorder. Besides reducing your efficiency during the day, sleep disorders can lead to other serious health problems. Your physician may feel you are a candidate for a sleep study, which is a specialized overnight test used to diagnose sleep disorders. There are successful treatment options for most sleep disorders. Prompt identification (or diagnosis) and treatment of sleep problems can greatly improve quality of life and overall health.

Dr. Mohsin Ehsan, a pulmonologist at SSM Health St. Joseph Hospital in St. Charles, says a sleep medicine physician can diagnose OSA using in-lab or home sleep studies. OSA can be managed by using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, oral appliance therapy, or surgery.