A recent study shows that a single poor night’s sleep can cause symptoms of depression, anxiety and stress. Many nights in a row have even worse effects. We all know how important good sleep is to our general well-being.

There are several sleep disorders that cause poor sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of all sleep disorders. The airway collapses or is blocked during sleep, causing shallow breathing or a pause in breathing. Pauses can last a few seconds or minutes and can occur 30 or more times in one hour. The person starts breathing again, sometimes with a choking sound or loud snort. Because of interrupted sleep, they are left tired and drowsy during the day—often relying on stimulants like coffee or soda to stay awake. In addition, people commonly have headaches from the decrease in oxygen.

“Today, sleep apnea is becoming more and more recognized by doctors and people are getting the help they need. In the past, it was frequently misdiagnosed as depression because symptoms are similar. Sometimes with sleep apnea, people have no energy so they don’t want to do anything, and their doctors mistakenly treat them for depression,” stated a TMH respiratory therapist.

Sleep apnea is diagnosed with a sleep study, and a common solution to obstructive sleep apnea is using a CPAP machine to keep airways open. The machine, about the size of a toaster, supplies a continuous pressure of air through the airways so they can’t close. CPAP machines have a tube with a mask attached, and are relatively quiet. The trick is getting used to wearing the mask and getting the right fit.

“Some people get used to the mask right away, and others need help. There are different types of masks in different sizes, so it’s important to find the right one for you,” the respiratory therapist added.

With a CPAP machine, people sleep more soundly and often feel their energy return. If you suspect you or your spouse has sleep apnea, talk to your doctor. He or she may schedule a sleep study at TMH to find out. Sleep studies and CPAP machines are covered to some degree by most insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid.

“If a sleep study points to sleep apnea and your doctor confirms it and prescribes a CPAP or BiPAP machine, a home healthcare company will help set it up for you and instruct you on how to use it and clean it,” the respiratory therapist stated.