John W. Watford, MD
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Don't let it get in the way of effective sleep!
Photo courtesy of shutterstock.com | Pixel-Shot
The idyllic, sunny Florida morning doesn’t come easy for everyone. A remarkable number of people don’t sleep well at all and find themselves nodding off during their routine daily tasks, or worse, even falling asleep while conducting tasks that require consistent attention – like driving!
It is important to recognize that excessive and persistent daytime sleepiness may be a sign of a treatable and serious disorder named Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). The busy work that our bodies do while we are sleeping relies on oxygen as much as when we are awake. 5-15% of people have trouble maintaining a steady oxygen supply during the night, which leads to increased adrenaline levels and abnormal changes in our heart’s workload, blood flow distribution, kidney function, and brain function.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a potential cause that can lead to chronic problems that are incrementally more difficult to treat the longer OSA is untreated. High blood pressure is more difficult to manage, and weight is more difficult to lose. People who are overweight or obese—and at higher risk of developing OSA—may experience swelling or kidney problems. OSA can also lead to abnormal heart rhythms. Worse, it can cause you to doze off when most dangerous—like while driving or doing other tasks that require concentration.
Many people who are familiar with Obstructive Sleep Apnea shy away from alerting their doctors about poor sleep because of stigmas attached to the diagnosis and treatment. Not all sleep apnea is obstructive. Depending on your personal risk factors, and even what kind of work you do, diagnosing OSA does not always involve spending the night “in the lab.” Sometimes the diagnosis can be determined by monitoring your sleep with convenient equipment at home, or a combination of a home test and sleep center evaluation.
If you do have severe obstructive sleep apnea, your sleep specialist may prescribe a positive airway pressure device, usually referred to as CPAP, to deliver increased airflow at a doctor-specified pressure while you sleep. Newer devices are vastly more effective, smaller, quieter, more comfortable, and more efficient than before. Various appliances that fit in or over just your nose are also effective alternatives to the classic full mask for some people. Addressing other factors that worsen obstructive sleep apnea, like stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, treating asthma, and managing reflux disease, all improve your quality of sleep.
Patients who have treated their OSA sleep better, have more energy during the day, and frequently need less medication to treat high blood pressure or kidney problems. Improved rest means more energy to exercise, which improves health overall. Better sleep means successfully completing tasks that require increased attention during the day. Benefits also extend to your loved ones who will notice you feel better. You and your partner will sleep easier and welcome another sunny morning!
Dr. John W. Watford is certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine and has been practicing since 2003. His concierge primary care medical practice is now open and welcoming new patients. Reach Dr. Watford at 239.544.7440 or firstname.lastname@example.org.