In Sleep Apnea, the patient stops breathing for a few seconds (apnea) and can only start breathing again after his sleep is interrupted (of which he may or may not be consciously aware), usually followed by a strong snoring.
This interruption can be partial or total. Both types of respiratory arrests lead to a significant reduction of oxygen in the blood which is harmful to the patient. The severity of the disease depends on the number of interruptions or apnea. In severe cases they can reach 500 interruptions in one night with duration of 1 minute. Patients are not aware of this and might think that they sleep well at night. It is the partner that observes this and the reason for seeking medical help. Another frequent complaint is getting up several times during the night to urinate, waking up tired and with headaches in the morning.
Unfortunately, drowsiness is far from the only consequence of Sleep Apnea. It is known that this condition is a very important risk factor for heart attacks, arrhythmia and strokes. The lack of oxygen reaching the cells during the night as a result of Sleep Apnea, affects every organ of the body, and the brain is no exception. In these patients an accelerated degradation of brain capacity is observed, with "memory loss" being one of the complaints.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea already exists, but with varying success, depending on the method chosen and the severity of the disease. The use of nasal CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) is very effective and is always used in severe cases. Other treatments such as surgery or a mouthpiece can be used in milder and selected cases.
Being a treatable condition the correct diagnosis and referral is essential and of obvious benefit to the patient. It is therefore necessary to undergo tests while the patient is sleeping. Breathing interruptions are recorded as well as are heart rate and oxygen level. This examination can be carried out at home. The patient takes a device home and the test is done while he sleeps. In special cases it can also be done in a Sleep Lab.