Wake up! One in five have sleep apnea

Myles Fish
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Sleep apnea

You wake in the middle of the night and you immediately hear the not-so-sweet sounds of your partner snoring away. Suddenly it stops; good news, right?

For your ears, sure. For your partner, maybe not so much.

Snoring during sleep is caused by a partly collapsed airway, when one's tongue slides back toward the back of the throat. But if one is snoring, then it stops, that could mean a completely collapsed airway, with a person still trying to take breaths, but not able to as the air passage is closed off. A person will unconsciously rouse out of their sleep enough to open the air passage again.

This is called obstructive sleep apnea, something that one in five Canadian adults have.

"They're getting suffocated a bit all night long. Every minute they're having that pattern repeated," explained Mike Amies, respiratory therapist at the Moose Jaw Union Hospital.

"For an eight hour period, that means they're getting nearly 500 episodes of choking."

The less common type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, in which the brain fails to signal the muscles need to breath.

The repeating pattern disturbs one's nightly rest, and the result, naturally, is not feeling rested and energized during the day. People with sleep apnea are more likely to fall asleep at the wheel of a car, but also are prone to hypertension, heart attacks, and even impotence.

National Sleep Awareness Week was marked from March 7-13, with the Lung Association of Saskatchewan promoting the education of sleep apnea. A survey done by the Public Health Agency of Canada found that only five per cent of people at high risk for sleep apnea had been tested for the condition.

For more on this story, read Monday's Times-Herald.

Organizations: Moose Jaw Union Hospital, Lung Association of Saskatchewan, Public Health Agency of Canada Times-Herald

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