Putting a Stop to Sleep Apnea

April 18, 2019

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Aida Capo, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pulmonary Medicine.

Getting a good night’s sleep has many benefits: It reduces stress, refreshes your mind and body and it can even improve your mood the next day. That’s why it’s important to take action if you feel like you aren’t getting good rest. One common issue that affects more than 18 million American adults and causes interrupted sleep is sleep apnea, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

“Sleep apnea is a term that covers conditions that occur when you repeatedly stop and start breathing throughout the night,” says Aida Capo, M.D., FCCP, pulmonary specialist at Hackensack Meridian Health Medical Group in North Bergen, New Jersey. “This can happen when your throat muscles relax and block your airway—this is the most common form, which is known as obstructive sleep apnea—or when the brain stops sending proper signals to the muscles that control breathing, which is less common and called central sleep apnea.”

In addition to leaving you tired and sleepy during the day, sleep apnea is also associated with multiple health problems including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and increased risk of stroke and heart attack. Sleep apnea can even affect your partner, because it can be difficult to sleep soundly next to someone who suffers from it.

Rating your risk

Risk factors for sleep apnea include both behaviors you can change and inherited factors you can’t. Men, and particularly older men, are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than women. Other inherited risk factors include being prone to nasal congestion, family history of the disease or having a large neck, which could mean your airways are smaller.

“Although some of the risk factors are genetic, there are actions you can take to reduce your risk of sleep apnea,” says Dr. Capo. “Being overweight, smoking, and using alcohol are all associated with a higher risk of sleep apnea. If you live a healthy lifestyle, you’re less likely to get it.”

Recognizing and treating sleep apnea

If you find yourself feeling tired and groggy throughout the day or having a difficult time sleeping through the night, you might want to speak to a doctor about sleep apnea. Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
  • Headaches or dry mouth after you wake
  • Loud or frequent snoring
  • Gasping for air while you sleep
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep

Your doctor may recommend you make an overnight appointment to be tested for sleep apnea at a clinic such as the Sleep-Wake Center at Palisades Medical Center. At this center, patients are monitored overnight while they sleep in a hotel-like environment. During this period, patients may also receive treatment in the form of a positive airway pressure mask, such as a CPAP or BiPAP machine.

“These machines maintain slight pressure on the patient’s airways,” says Dr. Capo. “That is usually enough to keep their airways open and stop sleep apnea from occurring. Most patients will notice the difference right away.”

In addition to overnight appointments, there are also home sleep tests that can help diagnose sleep apnea. Regardless of the method of diagnosis, getting sleep apnea treated will help you live a healthier life.

“Patients are more alert, they perform better at work and at home with friends and family, and I’ve even seen patients lose over 50 pounds after treatment due to being more active,” says Dr. Capo. “Going from restless, disturbed sleep to a full night’s rest can be life-changing.”

Aida Capo, M.D. practices in North Bergen, New Jersey. To make an appointment, call 201-861-7900. To find a provider near you, visit HackensackMeridianHealth.org.

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.