“Like so many other of my patients, this 50-year-old executive came to me with a nagging headache that would not go away. He complained of stress and increasing irritability.
‘He was not like this before’, his wife tells me. She continues ‘What’s more, he has been dozing off during important meetings recently. Now that’s a worry! And his blood pressure has been difficult to tie down. Speaking of ties, he has been gaining weight a bit and when he puts his tie on, his collar feels tight.’
I ask him if he snores in bed. He is vague about it and in fact vehemently denies it. But his wife is more helpful again. ‘He snores and tosses and turns in sleep’, she observes.
Does he toss in bed a lot at nights, I ask her. ‘He even stops breathing in short pauses while he snores. Then there is this big snore in and he starts breathing again.’
During the day it is another story. He sometimes has this urge to sleep while sitting in his car even during short drives within the city. His wife has even seen him fall asleep while reading the morning newspaper. But these sleeps do not last for very long. He wakes up quickly enough to get on with his job.”
Does the case ring true with you too?
If yes, you could be suffering from a fairly common disorder called obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
People suffering from OSA have repeated obstructions in the upper air passages during sleep. This causes frequent drop in the blood oxygen levels. It is a condition that can go
undetected for months and even years resulting in multiple medical problems.
To name them:.
You need to be aware of this, because the condition needs to be diagnosed and treated to prevent the corollary B Healthy medical conditions. Your doctor will take note of your medical history and conduct a few tests, including a sleep study called polysomnography, to diagnose your condition and prescribe treatment accordingly.
- High blood pressure
- Heart diseases
- Memory disorder
- Sexual problems
- Shortened life span
OSA can occur at any age but typically for different reasons.
- In children, OSA is frequently caused by enlarged tonsils and adenoids. Treating these specific conditions, offers the cure.
- In adults, losing weight if obese, good lifestyle habits, cutting down on alcohol and desisting from sleeping pills and muscle relaxants may just be enough. But then you need to stick by these healthy habits.
- If these measures do not work, a method to keep open the upper airways in sleep called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) may have to be considered.
- Surgery is sometimes helpful but should not be the first option.