Don't Let Your Sleep Complications Turn Into A Nightmare
Prevention and Treatment Now is the time to wake up and start taking sleep apnea seriously. Not getting the right amount of shut-eye is often more than just restlessness, it’s time to take sleep problems seriously—your state of health depends on it. Calgary’s researchers are leading the way.
We’ve all joked about the person we know who snores. But that snoring could be the sign of a much more serious condition, sleep apnea, which causes people to stop breathing intermittently. In fact, patients can stop breathing hundreds of times per night. This not only results in severe sleep deprivation, but hypoxia can also occur, a condition in which the body is deprived of adequate oxygen supply.
“It’s estimated that close to 20 percent of the population has some form of sleep apnea, and our research suggests that it’s much higher for those with chronic medical conditions.”
Leading research is being done out of the University of Calgary, which is taking a deeper look at the connection between sleep apnea and other serious chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, kidney disease, stroke, and neurological disorders.
It’s not known yet if treating sleep apnea will prevent stroke or the progression of other chronic conditions, but researchers and clinicians know there is a definite association. Further study is needed to better understand the connection.
Get tested – Your health depends on it
“This is a very serious condition, and more common than people think,” says Dr. Patrick Hanly, director of the Sleep Centre at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital, “It’s estimated that close to 20 percent of the population has some form of sleep apnea, and our research suggests that it’s much higher for those with chronic medical conditions.”
Hanly adds that sleep apnea, just one of several sleeping disorders, can often develop gradually and many people don’t even know they have it. But it can have a serious impact on one’s health, and the negative consequences often present themselves years down the road.
While one’s sleep partner may be aware of some of the symptoms— unexpected reasons for waking up during the night, gasping or choking sounds while sleeping, the most compelling symptoms are often noticed during the daytime. Waking un-refreshed, falling asleep while at work or driving, and increased irritability and mood swings.
“These symptoms should prompt further investigation by your doctor,” says Hanly. “Not only is one’s health at risk without diagnosis and treatment, but there are some serious safety concerns if people with this condition fall asleep while driving, or at work.”
Breathing your way to better health
The Lung Association of Canada has long been an advocate of sleep apnea, because it’s a breathing disorder that is linked to a number of chronic diseases, including COPD (a condition that obstructs the airways) and asthma.
“It is estimated that 100,000 Albertans have Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and approximately 80% have not been diagnosed, so they remain untreated,” says Gina Ibach VP Health Initiatives, The Lung Association, Alberta and NWT.
“The challenge is increasing the awareness amongst the public, but also with health professionals.” A large part of their advocacy has also been working with the government to get funding for targeted populations, such as low income seniors so they can access CPAP treatment, which is still the gold standard, but it can be prohibitive for those on low income or those who don’t have third party insurance.”
Ibach adds that a more integrated network of care needs to happen to better support those with sleep apnea. “There is still a stigma around sleeping disorders, and they don’t have the same profile as other diseases,” she says. “But when people receive treatment it is extremely positive.”