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Sleep Apnea an Important Factor in Neurological Disorders

Prof. Manjari Tripathi
Department of Neurology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi

Many of us snore in our sleeps, and consider it a natural occurrence. What we don't realize is that by ignoring the snores, we are putting ourselves at a great risk. While snoring to a certain extent may be benign, loud and incessant snores reek strongly of Sleep Apnea, an increasingly common condition that is becoming a key factor behind many of the lifestyle diseases.

During Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a person stops breathing during sleep. As a result the oxygen supply in blood and subsequently to the brain, declines. Oxygen enables various metabolic, hormonal and immune processes in the body during Sleep. A deficiency of oxygen caused by OSA, therefore, affects the way the body functions and makes it easier for serious and life threatening conditions to waltz in. If you are, or know someone who exhibits symptoms like snoring, morning headaches, excessive sleepiness during day time and continual fatigue, chances are high that you are suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea affects various neurological functions in the body. It can hamper the ability to judge situations or execute actions and also cause memory loss. In India we equate snoring with great sleep, barely realizing that it is an alarming signal of OSA. Especially in individuals with thick and short necks, excessive weight around waist and obese bodies who don't feel fresh even after a long night of sleep, snoring is definitely a red flag.
OSA is a serious condition that can even kill a person in sleep , says Dr. Manjari (Neurology Department, AIIMS). Every year many people, irrespective of their age, die in their sleep owing to sleep apnea. Not only does OSA increase a person's mortality risk, it also shortens the lifespan. A person suffering from Sleep Apnea is two to four times more likely to have a stroke. OSA can lead to a number of cardiovascular problems and metabolic syndrome, thus degrading the very quality of life.

Sleep Apnea leaves a person exhausted and unfocused, as was the case with a patient Nishant(Name changed), who was recently diagnosed with severe OSA. Dr. Manjari recommended the CPAP machine, which is a Gold Standard Treatment for OSA Sleep Apnea, for treating Nishant's condition. CPAP is a pressure device, which can be regulated to open up the airways during sleep. Not only does a CPAP machine bring greater relief right from the first day of usage, it also helps control diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems and averts the risk of stroke dramatically.
Irrespective of its severity level, Sleep Apnea must be corrected immediately. Yet, people think twice before accepting treatment, the reason being the daunting cost of the CPAP machine. However, you have to realize that when you compare the cost to number years by which the machine extends a person's life, it amounts to just a few paise per day ! That is nothing compared to the tremendous impact that the CPAP machine has on the quality of life for patients.

While Nishant used to suffer from daily headaches and sleep allusions which resulted in him being part of four road accidents; after using the CPAP machine he has become a different person altogether. With his OSA controlled, he has a much more fulfilling sleep and leads an active life. If you have a story similar to Nishant's, or know of someone who has been going through what Nishant went through, consult a sleep doctor immediately. Get your treatment for Sleep Apnea and ensure that it doesn't hold your life at ransom anymore.