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Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for a short period of time during the night. It can happen a couple of times to more than 50 times per night.

Sleep apnea occurs when a person stops breathing for a short period of time during the night. It can happen a couple of times to more than 50 times per night.

There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea, and the prominent cause is typically obstruction of the airway by the tongue. I would guess many of you do not know that approximately one out of 15 people have OSA. This equates to approximately 22 million people nationwide. OSA affects all age groups, from young toddlers to geriatric populations, regardless of ethnicity.

People who are heavier or obese tend to be at higher risk for OSA due to a thicker neck circumference which can naturally lead to obstruction of the airway passage. The second type of sleep apnea is called Central Sleep Apnea and occurs during sleep when the brain “forgets” to send the proper signals to the muscles telling them to make you breathe. This type of sleep apnea is less common and statistically estimated at approximately 9% of people older than 40 years of age in the U.S.

Why does learning about sleep apnea matter? It is critical to understand the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and its risks if it goes untreated. The common signs and symptoms are:

• excessive daytime sleepiness

• headaches in the morning

• awakening abruptly accompanied by gasping or choking

loud snoring

• awakening with dry mouth or sore throat

• decreased concentration

• depression

• mood changes and/ or irritability

• lack of libido

The risks of untreated sleep apnea can lead to these health problems:

• higher risk for COVID-19, leading to increase for poor outcomes (intubation)

• heart attack

• stroke

• heart failure

• high blood pressure

• diabetes

• worsening ADHD

• headaches

A recent study concluded that those who have known OSA should be monitored closely for early diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 to avoid any severe infections since the virus can attack their lungs. The study authors recommend that persons with suspected OSA use the STOP-Bang questionnaire to help identify those at risk for adverse outcomes.

Sheridan Memorial Hospital is hosting a free drive-up sleep apnea screening on Oct. 5 from 9 to 11 a.m. Come to the employee parking lot north of the cafeteria and look for the tent. No need to get out of your vehicle — health care professionals will come to your car to help you complete the simple STOP-Bang questionnaire to take to your provider on your next health visit. They will also give out information on heart-healthy habits and lifestyle changes.

Wear a face covering and if you are not feeling well that day, please stay home.

Kristi Ramsey, RN, BSN, RCIS, CVRN, is Sheridan Memorial Hospital’s Cardiac Cath Lab manager

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