March 2, 2007
In celebration of National Sleep Awareness Week, March 5-11, Loyola University Health System’s Center for Sleep Disorders is encouraging people who suspect that they have sleep apnea to be evaluated for the disorder.

“Sleep apnea temporarily stops a person from breathing, possibly hundreds of times each night,” said Dr Nidhi Undevia, assistant professor, department of medicine, division of pulmonary and critical care medicine, Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Ill. As a result, oxygen levels may decrease and carbon dioxide levels may increase. “Both are harmful,” said Undevia, board-certified sleep physician at Loyola’s Center for Sleep Disorders.

“With no air coming in, your brain automatically wakes you up and you choke and gasp for air,” she said. “This stresses the heart and can increase blood pressure. Once breathing returns, you might go back to sleep but only until the throat tissues again collapse. This cycle can repeat every few minutes, interrupting your sleep.”

A person will be groggy and tired even if they were in bed for 8 hours. “A person might fall asleep while driving, watching their children, or attending a business meeting,” Undevia said. At the very least, it will be hard to concentrate.

Therefore, it is much better for the individual to get tested and treated for sleep apnea as soon as possible. At Loyola, a board-certified sleep physician will interpret the test and determine if sleep apnea is contributing to disturbed sleep and daytime fatigue.

Undevia cautions that people who live alone may not know they have sleep apnea because outward signs of the disorder—interrupted breathing, loud snoring—occur during sleep.

More information about Loyola University Health System, is available at its Web site.