Deccan Chronicle

Little awareness about sleep apnea, say doctors

Deccan Chronicle| joyeeta chakravorty

Published on: December 28, 2013 | Updated on: Invalid date

Nothing is done about sleep apnea education: Experts

BangaloreThirty-four-year-old Rajiv Menon, a public relations officer at a city-based MNC, had no idea what ‘sleep apnea’ was until he was diagnosed of the sleep disorder.

Rajiv said, "My wife noticed that while I used to sleep, I would move a lot. We went to a pulmonologist and I got my sleep study done. In the nine hours of sleep, I had only 3.3 hours of proper sleep and had 70 odd incidents of sleep apnea."

The city doctors are worried about increasing incidents of sleep apnea and the half-hearted knowledge patients have in this regard. This sleep disorder occurs when the soft tissues at the back of the throat disrupt normal breathing patterns. Doctors warn that if this disorder is not diagnosed early, it can even cause death while sleeping.

"There have been increasing occurrences of sleep apnea in the city. The trend is definitely increasing and many patients are being referred to sleep study," said Dr Preeti Singh, Neurologist, Hosmat hospital.

Sleep apnea is different from insomnia or sleep deprivation from the all-day-long fatigue. It disrupts sleep cycle due to frequent resuscitation. "Many patients complain of not getting fresh sleep, snoring so loudly that they wake up and also sleeping all day long," informs Preeti, who blames lack of awareness among patients, guardians and spouses in this regard.

Dr Natrajan Rajagopalan, senior consultant pulmonologist at Narayana Health city said,  "Public education is not good in this regards and so is media coverage and nothing is done about sleep apnea education."

Even general physicians to whom these patients go complaining of tiredness and snoring while sleeping are not taking this condition seriously. "General physicians have not got much knowledge about this and they prescribe sleeping pills, which only triggers apnea," said Dr Natrajan.

The major causes of sleep apnea are alcohol consumption, obesity, abnormal upper airway and taking sleeping pills. "Obese people have a higher risk of having sleep apnea," informs Dr Natrajan. Talking about the incidence of this condition the doctor says, "Almost 30-40 patients that I treat every month, a majority of them have sleep apnea, but only 60-70% get sleep study done," the doctor said.

This peculiar disorder has been linked to bad lifestyle and obesity. About the symptoms Dr Preeti said, "Anyone who snores can be a potential victim, so if anyone notices abnormal snoring and uncontrollable sleep during the day, it should be gotten diagnosed by a pulmonologist.If not treated on time the hemoglobin levels can become very high and patients can die in sleep."

Dr Natarajan further warns that if left untreated, "It may cause neurological damage, loss of libido, hypertension, heart rhythm disturbances and patients can also die while in sleep." He felt the perception about sleep amongst people should change.

"Patients should learn about their sleep, as snoring is not a good sign. They should consult a pulmonologist at the earliest and get a sleep study done."

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