How many times do you stop breathing while you sleep? Is it 5 times, 15 times or even 30 times? And for how long? Is it just a few seconds at a time or longer?
Probably not the typical questions you get on an ordinary day but these questions could save your life if you suffer from sleep apnea and don’t even know it.
You may be thinking to yourself, “I don’t snore, so I don’t have sleep apnea,” which isn’t totally true. Some sleep apnea sufferers report little to no snoring.
Some signs to look for to diagnose sleep apnea can be coughing throughout the night, dry mouth, headaches in the morning, memory loss, feeling tired throughout the day, and being chronically tired (not just tired because you watched that extra innings game the night before until 1 a.m.).
“Everyone stops breathing a little bit when they sleep.”
Sleep apnea can strain the heart and lungs
Sleep apnea, which is medically called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), is a condition in which a person’s airway sometimes narrows or closes while they sleep. OSA can disrupt sleep and decreased airflow can strain the heart, lungs, and other organs.
The strain can lead to problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Everyone does stop breathing a little when they sleep, according to Irene Watson, medical nurse practitioner and OSA subject matter expert with the VA Providence Health Care System in Rhode Island.
“Everyone stops breathing a little bit when they sleep. If it happens five times or less per hour it’s considered normal. If it is five to 15 it is mild sleep apnea, 15-30 is moderate sleep apnea and over 30 is severe, “said Watson in a recent interview.
Sleep apnea can be treated
If you think you do suffer from sleep apnea, rest easy, it can be treated. Many Veterans who suffer from sleep apnea use a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine prescribed by their VA providers.
The CPAP machine is a small portable pump that sends air through a hose that is held over the nose and/or mouth by a mask. The air pressure widens the airway to help relieve the symptoms.
OSA can affect Veterans a lot more than they realize. Fortunately, help is out there for Veterans who may suffer from OSA. The VA New England Healthcare System outreach team recently published an in-depth multi-part video series about OSA.
The series covers a variety of topics including: What sleep apnea is, recognizing the signs and symptoms of OSA, realizing the dangers of OSA, links to OSA making PTSD worse, and VA disability benefits for OSA and treatments.
If you suspect you or a loved one has OSA, be sure to check out our videos so you can recognize the signs and symptoms and get help.
10/6/21 Note: There is currently a worldwide recall for Philips Respironics CPAP and BiPAP devices. For more information and frequently asked questions about the recall please visit the VA Philips Respironics CPAP and BiPAP Recall website.