Getting sound sleep a growing problem
Weight, lifestyle put pressure on patients
By: By Megan Sarrazin
| Posted: Wednesday, Jun 20, 2012 06:00 am
Getting a good night’s sleep is essential, but for some, it is awfully hard to come by.
Gary Yung, sleep therapist with Respiratory Homecare Solutions Inc., said sleep issues are more prevalent now than they have ever been.
“Whether it’s a weight-related issue or just general amount of work that’s being placed on people these days or the amount of stress, we are definitely finding that a lot more people are approaching offices like ours with sleeping concerns,” he said.
Statistics show roughly six per cent of men and four per cent of women are affected by sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is an interruption in breathing while an individual is sleeping. This interruption will cause the individual to partially awaken, which significantly reduces their quality of sleep.
A short-term lack of quality sleep often causes individuals to experience fatigue throughout the day, which can decrease their motivation, cause headaches and increase irritability.
Erin Gargus, registered respiratory therapist with Sleep FX, said many people underestimate the effect their sleep apnea has had and are surprised by the improvements once they seek treatment.
“A lot of the time, all they want to do is sleep, but they can sleep, sleep, sleep, but because the quality of the sleep is actually quite poor, it really doesn’t matter how long you sleep for,” Yung said.
He said this fatigue often turns people to energy sources in the form of candy bars, energy drinks and other sugary substances.
“That obviously leads to weight gain or loss of weight control,” he said. “That contributes to sleep apnea, so it’s a bit of a vicious cycle for a lot of people.”
He said things like weight, genetics, alcohol consumption and certain medications like sedatives and muscle relaxants are all contributing factors to sleep apnea.
Individuals with reduced muscle strength are also at an increased risk.
The disorder can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, medical history or weight. Yung said, however, his clients tend to be between 40 and 55 years old.
Long-term sleep deprivation from sleep apnea can have more serious consequences, like high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack and other cardiac issues.
Some sleep problems can be resolved by simple adjustments to daily routine, like eliminating certain medications, changing diet and exercising regularly.
However, for some people, these actions aren’t enough.
To diagnose the severity of sleep apnea, individuals are sent home with a monitor that measures oxygen and heart rates. This information is sent to a sleep physician for interpretation.
“If it’s a very, very mild scenario, we’ll often suggest things such as positional sleep or weight loss options or even activity options to promote higher activity levels in their lifestyle,” Yung said.
For more severe cases, individuals can wear oral appliances that help keep the airway open by manipulating the angle of the jaw.
More intense treatment can involve the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which provides a steady stream of oxygen that maintains a consistent opening in the airway.
Gargus said patients also have the option of going under the knife.
“They can take out that punching bag at the back of the throat, the uvula, and they also can take out the adenoid gland,” she said. “They laser the back of the airway in hopes that it limits the amount of stuff that’s actually falling back on your airway.”
She said the downside to this surgery, aside from the pain, is that the scar tissue can form in place of the uvula.
She said affordability is a major concern for patients, since most treatments are not covered under Alberta Health or private insurance plans.
Both St. Albert clinics require a referral from a specialist, dentist or general practitioner before treatment can begin.