What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is when you stop breathing for short periods of time during sleep. For the almost 20 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea it’s a serious health and even life-threatening problem. Sleep Apnea sufferers can stop breathing hundreds of times a night, sometimes for as long as a minute or more. And nine out of ten people with sleep apnea are undiagnosed.

Across the country, one out of 15 people have some form of sleep apnea making it as prevalent as asthma or diabetes. But in Wisconsin, according to The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, that number could be one out of 9 among middle-aged women and as high as 24 percent among middle-aged men.   

There are basically three different kinds of sleep apnea but all result in poor sleeping habits and an increased risk for many different health problems.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring - Although not everyone who snores has apnea, snoring in combination with other conditions, such as being overweight, can be a warning sign.
  • Stop Breathing/Gasping - Often a person with obstructive sleep apnea will display periods during the night when both snoring and breathing stop. These periods are then followed with a deep gasp or snort sound. These periods are indicative of an apnic event and are often witnessed by bed partners or other people observing the individual’s sleep.

Other signs you might have sleep apnea include (but are not limited to):

  • Enlarged tonsils and large tongue volume
  • Morning headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings/depression
  • Learning and/or memory difficulties
  • Sexual dysfunction

Link Between Sleep Apnea and Cardiac Issues

Many times, sleep disorders can be linked to an underlying cardiac  problem. Sleep apnea and snoring increase the likelihood of having  a variety of cardiovascular diseases. These include high blood  pressure, ischemic heart disease (a condition caused by reduced  blood supply to the heart muscle), cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeat rhythm), and cerebral infarction (blood clot in the brain).

If you have concerns about sleep apnea, the best thing to do is to see a sleep specialist. More information is available on our Sleep Disorder FAQ page.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment

The Bellin Health Sleep and Pulmonary Center has introduced a new, faster solution for individuals seeking a sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment.

Sleep Apnea FastTrack expedites what can be a lengthy diagnosis process by allowing patients to see a provider and get their at-home sleep test the same day (versus in separate appointments, which is the industry standard). This can cut the time to diagnosis in half, allowing patients to begin treatment sooner. Insurance coverage varies, so individuals should check with their insurance provider about the approval process for this expedited service.

Individuals are encouraged to make an appointment if they have two or more of these “STOP” sleep apnea risk factors:

  • Snore — despite what you may think, snoring is not necessarily normal
  • Tired — some of us wear fatigue like a badge of honor, but being persistently tired isn’t normal — and it could be the sign of a larger problem
  • Obstruction — have you or a partner noticed you stop breathing when you sleep?
  • Pressure — do you have high blood pressure, or are taking medication to control it?

Call (920) 433-7451 to schedule an appointment.