Sleep apnea is a condition in which there are brief periods during sleep in which your airway relaxes and you do not get enough air to your lungs. Sleep Apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition and is far more common than generally understood. There are three types of sleep apnea, obstructive, central, and mixed.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common and is caused by a collapse of soft tissue in the rear of the throat creating a temporary blockage in the airway. The result is that the sleeper can stop breathing for anywhere from 10 seconds to 3 minutes, with events recurring up to 100 times an hour in the most severe cases.
Central is the second type of sleep apnea and occurs when the brain fails to signal the diaphragm and chest muscles to breathe.
Mixed is the third type of sleep apnea. It is characterized by a combination of both obstructive and central. This disorder initially occurs as central sleep apnea (where the brain fails to signal the chest to breathe); then when the diaphragm suddenly begins moving, the airway is blocked by an obstruction (obstructive sleep apnea). It is not uncommon for someone to experience all three types of apnea in a single night.
Often, the patient is not the one who complains to the physician about sleep apnea, but rather the bed partner. This is because sleep apnea is most often associated with such loud snoring and evident pauses in breathing that it annoys and/or frightens the spouse. Symptoms the patient may notice include:
When breathing stops, oxygen levels in the blood drops and causes a strain on the heart and lungs. Fortunately, when the brain notices this drop, it sends a fight or flight signal to the body that there is trouble and a strong signal to resume breathing occurs. This action causes a brief but often unnoticeable arousal from sleep.
Because of these disruptions, the body is not able to go into the deeper stages of sleep which include REM sleep where dreaming occurs and Delta Sleep which is Restorative sleep. The result is that the sufferer will wake up the next day still feeling tired, and may experience morning headaches as a result of the decreased oxygen.
The most immediate effect of sleep apnea is the daytime fatigue and risk of falling asleep at work or while driving. Other potential effects of sleep apnea include serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes and stroke. It can also lead to depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory difficulties. Studies show that up to 50 percent of sleep apnea sufferers have high blood pressure. Studies show that up to 70% of sleep apnea sufferers have diabetes.
In the past, OSA was diagnosed by spending a night in facility based sleep lab, called a polysomnography or PSG. A PSG records multiple biophysiological signals throughout the night after sensors have been applied over much of the body. In addition to being able to tell if you have sleep apnea, a PSG can tell what percentage of time you are spending in each stage of sleep (which is a measure of how efficiently you are sleeping) and whether you have other, more rare disorders such as a sleep movement disorder or narcolepsy.
Your physician can also determine if you have sleep apnea symptoms by asking you a series of sleep related questions. Based on the score of these questions, he or she can order a Home Sleep Test or HST. The advantage of the HST is that you are being recorded in your own bed, so it is more likely to reflect what actually happens each night. It is also significantly less expensive and more convenient.
Many people find it difficult to sleep in new places, let alone covered in electrodes with someone watching from the next room. Your routine before bed is not interrupted so we are capturing a typical night. With just a sensor on your finger, nose and a small device on a belt around your chest, VirtuOx can tell if you have sleep apnea.
No need to drive across town, miss work or hassle with your insurance company to see if an expensive procedure is covered. With VirtuOx, the HST device is delivered right to your door with complete instructions and a toll-free technical support line 24/7, should you need it. The next day, just drop everything in a standard USPS mailbox in a stamped, pre-paid priority mail envelope and wait 2-3 days for your doctor to get the report. Nothing could be easier!
These days, patients are responsible for more of the cost of their healthcare than ever before. It matters what procedures cost now! Whether it's your portion as a co-pay, the full amount because you have a high deductible or the entire cost because your insurance doesn't cover the procedure, many patients are searching for a more cost-effective solution. HST is between 1/3rd and 1/10th the cost of an in-lab study. In most cases, the outcome is the same.