BATON ROUGE, LA (WGMB) – According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, more than 12 million Americans have this disorder, and for those 12 million getting a good night’s rest can be a challenge.
“I would say it’s very similar to high cholesterol or high blood pressure. It’s not going to kill you today, next week, next month, but it does kind of beat up on the circulation over time. It is a risk factor for heart attack and stroke,” said Dr. Robert Hinkle.
In this week’s Women’s Wellness, I’m catching up with Dr. Robert Hinkle, a sleep medicine physician and a pulmonologist here at the Baton Rouge Clinic, and we are talking about sleep apnea.
“Sleep apnea is repetitive episodes of stopping breathing during a person’s sleep, and the most common type of that is obstructive sleep apnea, where a person’s windpipe basically gets sucked shut,” said Dr. Hinkle.
Who is more susceptible to getting it?
“The classic person for that is the 40 to 50-year-old man. They tend to be overweight and tend to have a large tongue size, but not everybody fits this mold. I’ve actually had a number of young women that have fairly significant sleep apnea that are not overweight,” explained Dr. Hinkle.
However, how do you know if you have it?
“Often a person’s bed partner is going to hear snoring loud enough where you can hear it through a closed door. It occurs on a nightly basis, and the bed partner will also notice them having episodes of stopping breathing, where it looks like they’re struggling to breathe, and it will terminate in a snorting or gasping, and then they will start breathing again,” said Dr. Hinkle. “Also, a person with sleep apnea will have excessive daytime sleepiness, and that’s kind of a tricky thing because we are all just a little bit sleepy during the daytime.”
What about treatment?
“The best treatment is a device called CPAP, which is a little box that sits on the bedside table, and it’s connected via tubing to a variety of different masks, some of which are very non-invasive and make a little seal with the nose, and others want to cover the mouth and nose, and really the best one is which one makes the patient most comfortable,” said Dr. Hinkle.
Dr. Hinkle said that is not the only way.
“Upper airway surgery, there’s a mouthpiece very similar to something a dentist would make that pulls the lower jaw out, and that opens up the air space, and those are probably good for those people who don’t want to use the CPAP machine,” concluded Dr. Hinkle.
Dr. Hinkle said if you have any questions, make sure to ask your doctor.