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Sleep Apnea: Take It to Heart, Loyola Advises

In celebration of National Sleep Awareness Week, March 5 – 11, Loyola University Health System’s Center for Sleep Disorders is encouraging people who snore loudly, hear// themselves (or are told that they) gasp for air at night or wake up groggy to be evaluated for sleep apnea, a potentially deadly, but easily treatable, sleep disorder that raises the risk of heart attack and stroke.

More than 18 million people in the United States have sleep apnea.

Gregory H., 59, of Berwyn, Illinois, caught it in time by going to Loyola’s Center for Sleep Disorders, where he was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea in which throat tissues collapse, blocking the airway.

Before Loyola, Greg felt fatigued all the time. His snoring woke up his wife at night. She noticed that Greg would sometimes stop breathing and then gasp for air. Neither got enough sleep.

But after a sleep study, called a polysomnogram, indicated Greg’s sleep apnea, Loyola prescribed a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine. Now, Greg and his wife get a good night’s sleep and both are more alert during the day.

“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, inter
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