The SleepCare Center at RWJ Hamilton


Who Has Sleep Apnea?

Did you know?

  • 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders; 95% of these cases go untreated.
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is more common than asthma, causes more than 38,000 cardiovascular deaths annually.
  • OSA carries a three-fold risk of hypertension, and has also been implicated in the pathogenesis of insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, arrhythmias and atherosclerosis.

Who Has Sleep Apnea?
Some of the signs and symptoms include:

  • Snoring with pauses in breathing (apnea)
  • Excess daytime sleepiness
  • Gasping or choking during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • Problem with mental function
  • Poor judgement and inability to focus
  • Memory loss
  • Quick to anger
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime chest pain
  • Depression
  • Problem with excess weight
  • Large neck (>17" around in men, >16" around in women)
  • Airway crowding
  • Morning headaches
  • Sexual problems
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom at night

You can often tell when someone has OSA. If you listen while the person sleeps you will hear snoring followed by silence. There may be a loud snort or a gasp as he or she starts breathing again.

How does sleep apnea occur?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when muscles of the soft palate and throat relax during sleep, obstructing the airway and making breathing difficult and noisy (snoring). Eventually the airway walls collapse, blocking airflow entirely, which results in breathing pause or apnea. The muscles of the diaphragm and chest work harder to try to restore the breathing. This temporarily interrupts sleep, which activates the throat muscles and opens the airway. There is often an audible gasp noted with this. This cycle repeats itself sometimes hundreds of times a night. Each time breathing stops during sleep, the oxygen level in the blood falls, causing the heart to work harder to circulate the blood. Since oxygen is the fuel for the cardiovascular system, this creates stress on the heart, which leads to an increase in the blood pressure and may result in irregular heartbeats, hypertension, heart disease and stroke if it remains untreated.

Consequences of sleep apnea, if left untreated:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Car accidents and work-related accidents due to sleepiness
  • Poor quality of life
  • OSA patients, prior to diagnosis and treatment, use 2.5 times more health care dollars than patients without OSA

To schedule a prescribed sleep study, call 866.SLEEP40 (1-866-753-3740).