Sleep Apnea and the SMART-BANG Risk Assessment
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder affecting more than 12 million Americans. Those who are risk are often men who are overweight, and also those over the age of 50. Heavy snoring, long pauses in breathing, and frequent awakenings at night are often symptoms and should not be ignored. Other vague symptoms include morning headaches, feeling irritable, and difficulty concentrating.
There are two types of sleep apnea, with nine out of 10 people having the most common type, called obstructive sleep apnea. This is due often due to structural blockage in the back of the throat, usually involving the tongue, large tonsils, the uvula, or it can be due to excess fatty tissue around the neck. Central sleep apnea occurs one out of 10 times, and is due to a dysfunction of the brain giving the appropriate signal or an interrupted signal telling the body to breathe.
Sleep apnea is evaluated by your health care provider who will assess your symptoms and overall health. A sleep study might be conducted in a sleep center where you are monitored through the night for sleep apnea. In some areas a sleep study may now be done in your home, so ask if this might be an option.
Treatment will be guided by the findings of the sleep study. The most common treatments include:
Weight loss (a loss of 10% may make a difference!)
Quit smoking if you are a smoker
Sleep on your side rather than your back
Stop the use of alcohol and sleep medications because they may relax
the back of the throat and worsen your ability to breathe
Some are offered a dental-type device if the symptoms are minor
If the sleep study determines your need for a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, you will use this device to keep your airway open due to the added pressure of the air you breathe. Maintaining it and keeping it clean is key. If you lose weight (10 percent or more), you will need to have your machine re-calibrated for your needs.
Why is it so important to treat sleep apnea? Your risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart failure is much higher when not treated. It can also lead to daytime sleepiness that affects your job and safety. If you think you might have sleep apnea, try this questionnaire, which is a common tool to evaluate your poor sleep and risks: http://www.stopbang.ca/osa/screening.php If your screening shows you are at risk, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to discuss further.
The STOP-BANG Sleep Apnea questionnaire is a tool used to assess your risks:
Do you SNORE loudly
Do you often feel TIRED
Has anyone OBSERVED you stop breathing during sleep
Do you have high blood PRESSURE
Do you have a BMI over 35 kg/m
Is your AGE over 50
Is your NECK measurement more than 16 inches
Is your GENDER male
**although it is rare, children can also have sleep apnea.