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Sleep Apnea

by len king on Feb 09, 2023

Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a respiratory sleep disorder in which a person stops breathing or breathes ineffectively during sleep. This can be short term. Includes complete absence of breath or difficulty breathing, as indicated by snoring. You may not know you have difficulty because you don't notice it while you sleep. Often, other people will tell you that you snored or stopped breathing for a period of time during sleep, or that you gasped for air. You may notice symptoms of waking up with a headache, dry mouth, irritability, inability to concentrate, tiredness during the day, and even falling asleep during the day.

There are three types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. It occurs when the throat muscles relax, not allowing air to pass. Central sleep apnea occurs when messages from the brain to the breath are not relayed to the body. The combination of both types of sleep apnea is called complex sleep apnea syndrome. Individuals with spinal cord injuries may have any of these three types.

Sleep apnea is more common in people with spinal cord injuries. It is common in people with quadriplegia, affecting an estimated 25-40% of people. Respiratory muscle weakness is likely to involve any degree of injury. Obesity, especially in the neck and abdomen, is also a risk factor for sleep apnea. Sleeping on your back is the position most prone to sleep apnea. Certain muscle relaxants (such as baclofen, which is known to slow breathing) can affect sleep patterns.

A sleep study is a test for sleep apnea. In this test, you are monitored while you sleep. With spinal cord injuries, you will need to ensure that the bed surface will meet your needs and your physical care needs will be provided prior to the study.

Treatment includes a device to keep you breathing while you sleep. Include nighttime sleep and naps if needed during the day. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a device that provides air pressure through a mask to keep the airway open during sleep. It is the most commonly used treatment. Alternatives include bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP), a device that provides more pressure when you inhale and less pressure when you exhale. A newer device is Adaptive Servo Ventilation (ASV). This airflow device mimics your normal breathing pattern, replicating your breathing pattern while you sleep. It is only recommended for certain types of sleep apnea. Depending on the type of sleep apnea, some people also use oral appliances that physically open the airway while sleeping. Oral appliances are the least effective, but can work for some people.

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