Sleep apnea is a dangerous sleep disorder; you may have it but not be aware of it

By Don Bergman
U.S. Fatigue Countermeasures Coordinator

Is this you?

Do you snore loudly and habitually?

Do you feel tired when you wake up?

Do you find yourself sleepy during waking hours?

Are you overweight?

Have you ever been told that you choke, gasp or hold your breath during sleep?

If you or someone close to you can answer yes to any of the above questions you may have a sleep disorder called Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea was first described in 1965 as a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. Generally speaking, it prohibits an individual from breathing and sleeping at the same time. "Apnea" is a Greek word meaning "want of breath." Here are some facts about sleep apnea:

If you suspect that you have some of the symptoms of Sleep Apnea you are encouraged to see a doctor about your symptoms. But first, you need to check with your insurance carrier before making any appointment. You may be required to get a referral to a sleep specialist from your primary care physician. Evaluation and testing can be accomplished in a sleep center or in some cases in your own home. Don't be discouraged if your primary care physician attempts to give you sleeping pills and send you home. If you believe you have the symptoms of Sleep Apnea that were outlined here insist on seeing a sleep specialist.

You should feel free to ask any doctor about his or her credentials and experience. You should also be satisfied with the explanations of what sleep apnea is and how it is diagnosed and treated in your particular case.

Three avenues are available to the patient with Sleep Apnea:

1. Behavioral Therapy

2. Physical or Mechanical Therapy

3. Surgery

You also should check with the Department of Transportation in your state about their position on Sleep Apnea. Some states are attempting to restrict driving privileges if an individual refuses to be treated once diagnosed with Sleep Apnea... a word to the wise.

If you feel you would like more information on Sleep Apnea you are encouraged to contact the three organizations whose information was used in this article. They are:

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research
Two Rockledge Center
Suite 7024
6701 Rockledge Dr. MSC 7920
Bethesda, MD 20892-7929
(301) 435-0199
American Sleep Apnea Association
1424 "K" St., N.W.
Suite 302
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 293-3650
National Sleep Foundation
1522 "K" St., N.W.
Suite 510
Washington, DC 20005

Please don't take Sleep Apnea lightly. Many persons who suffer the symptoms of Sleep Apnea have received treatment and in the majority of cases those persons will testify that their treatment has made a significant change in their life. Ask around and you'll probably find someone who has Sleep Apnea, has been treated and will end up preaching to you about the benefits of getting medical attention... and your sleeping partner will thank you.

2000 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers