Does snoring automatically indicate sleep apnea?
Not necessarily. Snoring is a sound created by air flowing through a partially closed upper respiratory tract causing the thoracic elements, loosened during sleep, to vibrate. It may also be caused by difficulty in nasal breathing (deviated septum or nasal polyps), throat and lingual tonsils, enlargement of the uvula as well as a soft palate.
Sleep apnea is a more serious sleep disorder in which the air passages periodically close entirely for a short period of time (even twenty or thirty times during a single night) during which breathing stops for a long second following which breathing begins again sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. The reason apnea is dangerous is that while it is occurring, the oxygen supply is not adequate, the pulse slows down, the blood pressure lowers and then, when breathing is restored, these values suddenly jump due to the stress reaction of the nervous system and the intensified work of the heart and the respiratory muscles. There is a close relationship between snoring and apnea, but, it is only through a physical examination that it can be decided how dangerous the phenomenon is and what can be done about it.
Whom should we turn to for an examination?
The apnea screening examination is mostly done by internists, cardiologists, otolaryngologists and gastroenterologists depending on the area of the body where the symptoms first appeared. It would be wise for you to ask for such an examination if you have either one of the following symptoms: intermittent snoring, waking with a start during the night, heavy perspiration, morning fatigue, daytime sleepiness, inability to concentrate, decreased physical performance, impotency and weight gain.
How is sleep apnea screened? Do I have to sleep in the clinic?
No, it is not necessary for you to sleep in the clinic. The instrument we use now for measuring oxygen level is so small that it can safely be used at home. The pulse oximeter has a sensitizer that will be attached to one of your fingers with a clip and a recorder placed on your chest. Neither is very big and, following a few instructions, you should be able to set it up yourself. If the oximeter shows periodical decreases and then increases in the oxygen level, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and its extent determined.
What further examinations should we count on?
If further examinations are indicated, one might be the night time polysomnography that observes, changes in the oxygen level in the heart and in the respiratory organs, and, at the same time, lung and brain function, while you are asleep. For blockage of air passages, an otolaryngologist should be consulted.
What are the dangers of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. It prevents a true restful sleep, consequently, the Patient is already exhausted when waking in the morning, has a headache, is in a bad mood, has more difficulty concentrating, is fatigued all day and the physical and intellectual performance levels are decreased equally.
The oxygen level fluctuations caused by the breathing pauses are very stressful to the vascular system with a greater likelihood of cardiovascular disease developing in the future and with the rise in blood pressure, increase the risk of cardiac failure, stroke and sudden cardiac arrest.