You often feel sleepy during the day, and your spouse complains about your snoring. Your primary care provider suspects you have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – pauses in breathing during sleep due to a narrowed airway.
"OSA is frequently under-recognized because its complications are long-term,” says Michael McDonald, MD, sleep medicine physician and medical director of Olympic Medical Sleep Center. "It is associated with increased risk for high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation and type 2 diabetes.”
If a sleep study determines you have OSA, a sleep medicine specialist may recommend treatment with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
"A CPAP device is nothing more than a small air compressor with a mask that fills patients’ throats with air during sleep,” Dr. McDonald says. "The air keeps the throat open so patients can breathe.”
A sleep technician will determine the best air pressure setting for you and set the CPAP machine accordingly. When you go to bed, simply turn on the machine and put on the mask. Masks cover the entire face or the nose only, or use tubes to deliver air directly into the nostrils. CPAP machines are quiet and have become less cumbersome over the years. The system comfortably accommodates both back and side sleeping.
If you suspect your symptoms suggest OSA, ask your primary care provider for a referral to the Olympic Medical Sleep Center for evaluation.