I recently read a couple of medical articles discussing sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing and wanted to share the findings with you. There was a landmark Sleep Heart Health Study (SHHS), the largest such study to date, a community-based study in which 6441 men and women aged 40 to 99 years of age were evaluated prospectively. The findings were that individuals with severe sleep apnea had a 40% increased risk for death compared with their counterparts without the condition. The study was published online August 18, 2009 in the Public Library of Science, Medicine and its lead author is Naresh M. Punjabi, MD, PhD, from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Punjabi further explained the findings in an article published August 20, 2009 online at Medscape Medical News, in which he expressed his view, and I paraphrase, “these individuals (those with sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing) chronically experience repetitive cycles of decreased oxygen during sleep, which over time sets up a cascade of events that trigger multiple deleterious events.” Previous studies have shown a link between sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing and an increased risk for coronary heart disease, hypertension, and stroke.
The second article of interest was published in the August 2009 edition of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery and its lead author was Sam Robinson, MB, FRACS in Australia. In this article individuals were studied over an 18 month period to determine the best treatment of their sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing. The results of the study showed that individuals with moderate to severe sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing should initially be given a trial of nasal CPAP. However, in the event an individual does not tolerate nasal CPAP, and in the Australian study 45% of people did not tolerate nasal CPAP, then the individual should be evaluated for contemporary multilevel upper airway reconstructive surgery because the outcomes from surgery were expected to be superior to not treating these individuals.
From my perspective, having treated thousands of individuals (patients) with sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing, over my thirty (30) plus years as a practicing physician in Atlanta, Georgia, I have come to the same conclusion both of these medical authors have come to. My recommendation to anyone reading this blog, is that if you, your loved one, or a close personal friend, has symptoms suggestive of sleep apnea/sleep-disordered breathing, such as waking up tired on a consistent basis, falling asleep very quickly and easily during the day, feeling tired and without much energy during the day, actually stop breathing at night for periods of 10 seconds or longer, or gasping for breath while sleeping, then please get evaluated. See your physician to discuss this health issue or make an appointment with a specialist who treats individuals (patients) with this problem.