May 10, 2010


COLUMBIA, Tenn. — According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, more than 100 million Americans of all ages regularly fail to get a good night’s sleep. While this may cause many individuals the inconvenience of drowsiness during the day, some people are at risk for experiencing more serious health consequences. During Better Sleep Month, Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) cautions people on the dangers of sleep apnea.

“Sleep apnea is a very common and often undiagnosed sleep disorder that, according to the National Institutes of Health, affects more than 12 million Americans,” says Ted Bradshaw, coordinator of the Sleep Center at MRMC. “Often associated with loud snoring and daytime tiredness, sleep apnea occurs when one stops breathing during sleep. However, unlike simple snoring, sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition that can cause heart attack, stroke, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure or heart disease.”

Warning signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Frequent silences during sleep due to breaks in breathing (apnea)  
  • Choking or gasping during sleep to get air into the lungs
  • Loud snoring
  • Sudden awakenings to restart breathing or waking up in a sweat
  • Daytime sleepiness and not feeling refreshed by a night’s sleep
  • Morning headaches

Sleep apnea can range from mild to moderate to severe. For those with mild to moderate cases, simple lifestyle changes may help control the problem. Bradshaw recommends losing weight, quitting smoking and not consuming alcohol or sedatives right before bedtime, which can cause the tissues of the throat to sag and further restrict breathing.

“Keep in mind that you may need to try a variety of treatments to find the one that works best for your specific condition,” said Bradshaw. “The most effective treatment for a person is often dependent on the number of symptoms from which they suffer and how severe each symptom is.”

Bradshaw added, “Nearly everyone will experience a sleepless night, many times due to stress. However, if you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis or suffer from the symptoms of sleep apnea, see your physician. Identifying and treating the cause of your sleep disturbance can help you get the restful night’s sleep you long for.”