Women’s Health: Sleep Apnea

What do you notice about the picture that is typical, yet stereotypical at the same time? The man in the picture is wearing what is called a CPAP machine, in case you aren’t already familiar with it. The CPAP is a relatively new device to help with sleep disorders, most commonly sleep apnea.

What is stereotypical about this is that it is assumed that the man is always the one with sleep apnea. Snoring is one symptom of sleep apnea and men are usually the snorers, but not always. And snoring is not the only symptom of sleep apnea, nor does it always mean a snorer has sleep apnea. There are many women – snorers and non-snorers – who have sleep disorders and would benefit from a great night’s sleep and using a CPAP machine.

What sleep orders require a CPAP?

There are a few sleep disorders that require the use of a CPAP machine during the night, and most of them are forms of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is basically where your breathing stops for various reasons during the night while you sleep. Some forms of sleep apnea are more serious than others. The breathing stoppage may only last for a split second, but when several of these happen during a night, it disrupts one’s sleep. The person may wake up tired, groggy, irritable, moody or just plain lethargic. Sleep apnea isn’t just a male disorder – women can wake up feeling that way too.

There are a few known reasons why sleep apnea occurs. Rapid weight gain or even a slow weight gain can build up to creating one having sleep apnea. The extra weight around the neck and throat region can interfere with the openings in the throat, therefore the air is restricted at times from exiting/entering the body. Genetics may also play a role in sleep apnea, but nothing is proven yet.

In order to tell if you have sleep apnea, consult with your doctor. If your family doctor suspects sleep apnea, they will probably refer you to a clinic that performs sleep studies. You will then schedule a night where you sleep with electrodes hooked all over your head and parts of your body. Those electrodes relay messages to a computer and can register when you have stopped breathing. If your “episodes” are often, the staff performing the study might even stop it and put you on a CPAP right then.

A doctor will read the sleep study in the next few days and recommend if you need a CPAP machine. If so, then you will need another sleep study where you will be hooked up to the CPAP where they will adjust the airflow that comes in through the tubes. The air that comes up through the tube is what forces your airwaves to stay open and for you to “stop” stopping breathing.

When using a CPAP machine every night, you should wake up feeling rested. A CPAP machine should not make you feel more tired or groggy – especially after a few days of using it. If it does, consult with the sleep specialist to adjust the settings.

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