Sleep Slips

Called the silent killer,Sleep Apnea is a condition that can be treated easily to allow people suffering from it to sleep peacefully.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Published: September 5, 2012 3:56 am

Called the silent killer,Sleep Apnea is a condition that can be treated easily to allow people suffering from it to sleep peacefully

Thirty-two-year old Mandeep Malhotra (name changed),a businessman,could not fathom why he had started snoring suddenly. “I am overweight and have been an occasional smoker but snoring continuously for more than a fortnight simply baffled me,” recalls Malhotra . That’s when he did his own research and found it could be a condition like sleep apnea. “But I did not want to take chances and decided to avail of medical treatment,” says Mandeep who underwent a sleep study and a mere minute long procedure to remove an obstruction in the nose. “It was a relief as I can now feel the amount of oxygen being inhaled. Earlier I just could not breathe properly,” he recalls.

For 47-year-old Ramesh Patil (name changed),snoring meant he was fatigued and needed rest. But when he snored throughout the night for more than a week,he learnt it could even lead to high blood pressure and cardiac arrest. “It was at that time that I went to the doctor and learnt that I had a condition called sleep apnea. The treatment lasted for a year but I can gratefully say that I no longer snore. Ask my wife,she will vouch for the fact,”says Patil.

Malhotra and Patil are among the increasing number of patients who do not realise that snoring is not just a common occurrence caused due to fatigue or lack of sleep. Doctors admit that lack of sleep does impact the overall quality of life and productivity of person but serious health issues can occur like diabetes,stroke and high blood pressure. “The incidence of snoring is at least 40-50 per cent common in adults and almost 6-7 per cent of the adult population suffer from a disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea,”says Dr Seemab Shaikh,founder president of the Indian Association of Surgeons for Sleep Apnea and ENT surgeon specializing in snoring and sleep disorders.

Termed as a silent killer,Obstructive Sleep Apnea,if untreated can lead to conditions as serious as heart disease and heart attacks. In India ,sleep disorders such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) represent a significant yet overlooked health problem. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes during sleep causing a blockage in the airway resulting in snoring. This in turn,results in the patient waking up several times during the night and therefore,not getting a complete good night’s sleep.

“What makes it worse is the plethora of common myths surrounding the issue of sleep or lack of it. For example,unlike in the West,in India,snoring is considered a sign of deep sleep,when,in fact,it is one of the most common signs of obstructive sleep apnea and poor sleep. Some patients realise it could be a problem but many don’t and these numbers and we do not have statistics in India pertaining to the disorder,” says Shaikh whose association now plans to take up awareness programmes. In fact a recent Philips-Nielsen Sleep Survey on sleep patterns in the country found that 93 per cent Indians are sleep deprived,58 per cent Indians feel their work suffers from lack of adequate sleep and ironically while 87 per cent Indians say lack of sleep affects their health,only two per cent discuss their lack of sleep with a physician !

“The most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure while other less common treatments include surgery and oral appliances which may be effective in certain individuals. However half the battle is won only if snorers actually think it is a problem and avail of treatment,” urges Shaikh.

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