I started a new job last year after years of working in a call center that sold products on line, rather like a Shopper’s Drugstore here in Canada. It was an interesting job and after 7 years working for Convergy’s Canada who was contracted by AT&T Wireless, it was a breeze.  Both of these jobs left me a little heart weary and working at another call center was not something I really wanted to do. Yet when a very good friend of mine told me I should apply where she worked I caved like a Yorkshire pudding after it comes out of the oven. She is a good friend. What can I say?

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So the ole girl sent in her resume, went through the hateful process of an interview which was surprisingly easy for once and I got the job. I know going in what the job entailed, what type of environment it was to work in and who I would be working with. Quite a few ex-pats from my previous call center meandered over to the new guy on the block and have been happy.

Now what does all this have to do with Sleep Apnea? Easy question answered – ResMed. The company I work for is one of the foremost companies in the world that makes the machines/equipment for sleep apnea, as well as providing support services for the patient, home medical equipment providers and insurance companies in the US.

I had no idea when I began working here that there was such a thing as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is not a joke. It is a scary thing and it can kill you if left untreated.  I don’t have sleep apnea personally, but this is something I feel the need to share. Hopefully someone will see this and get themselves into a sleep study.

Sleep is necessary for continued good health. When we don’t sleep well we are tired and cranky in the morning. We also suffer from impaired thinking, a reduced learning ability and yes I am going there, a decrease in our libido. You may know this already but do you know that poor sleep also affects or heart, metabolism and that chronic sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of obesity, hypertension and Type 2 diabetes.

Poor sleep may simply be a case of going to bed 3 hours before you have to get up for work and just not giving yourself long enough to rest. It can also be a result of the quality of sleep you have. A good night’s sleep should improve your quality of life. A night of poor quality of sleep can be just that but it can also mean that you have an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea causes your breathing to stop repeatedly while you sleep. These stops/pauses, also called ‘apneas’ usually last anywhere from 10-30 seconds and can happen many times through the night. Can you imagine being asleep then you stop breathing, not just once but dozens of times? Yes I said dozens. It can happen more than 50 times every hour. You don’t even know it happens until your body or partner gives you a nudge, which can get you breathing again. You may or may not awaken and then you immediately go back to sleep. You may never know that you stopped breathing while you were asleep for 1000 seconds (100 apneas lasting 10 seconds). All of this because you could have sleep apnea.

What are the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea?

Family members or your bed partner are usually the first to notice the signs of sleep apnea. It isn’t unheard of for people to not know that they are snoring, or gasping for breath during the night. So if you snore or gasp for breath while sleeping then read the list here to see if you have other symptoms or signs and need to call your doctor.

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring followed by silent pauses
  • Morning headache
  • Irritability or mood changes
  • Poor concentration or memory loss
  • Lowered sex drive
  • Falling asleep while driving

The most common sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and it is a potentially serious sleep disorder. It is estimated that 3-7% of adult men and 2-5% of adult females in Western countries suffer from obstructive sleep apnea along with its risk factors, such as obesity, and aging and the numbers are increasing.

The following are common OSA risk factors:

  • obesity, especially when it is carried in the upper body, is a primary risk for OSA.
  • male gender
  • post-menopausal women
  • increasing age
  • pregnancy
  • family history
  • alcohol or sedative use
  • smoking • diabetes
  • genetic disorders
  • anatomic abnormalities:  small facial bones, narrow nasal passages, recessed chin, excess soft tissue in the upper airway such as the tongue mass, uvula, tonsils, soft palate and tissue at the back of the throat.

Note: The more risk factors a patient has, the higher the chance of having OSA.

Left untreated sleep apnea can cause some serious health problems. Here’s a list:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Depression
  • Decreased sexual function
  • Work related injuries.

In 2014 according to a Sleep Apnea Rapid Response Survey (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3938242/) there were an estimated 5.4 million people that had been diagnosed with sleep apnea or are at high risk of experiencing it. Out of a population of roughly 32 million people that is 1 in 7 people in this country suffer from or are at risk of suffering from sleep apnea. There could be more.