There are several individuals walking around tired, are you one of them?  Today’s society is very fast paced and does not leave much room for rest and relaxation.  However, if you are walking around tired and fatigued much of the time it could be because of a bigger issue; a sleep disorder.

Sleep disordered breathing is a general term for breathing difficulties occurring during sleep.  There are a variety of different sleep disordered breathing issues that can occur, with all of them contributing to chronic fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness.  “For us to consider it a breathing event, a cessation of air for 10 seconds or longer during sleep would need to occur,” said Amber Brown, Director of Clinical Operations at SomniTech.  The cessation in air can occur due to an obstructive breathing event (one where there is something obstructing the airway), a central breathing event (one where the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing), or a combination of these breathing events.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, an estimated more than 18 million American adults suffer from the disease, but due to lack of awareness and education, over half are undiagnosed or untreated. Often, poor sleep is the main symptom linked, but lack of sleep isn’t the only sign. Sleep apnea has many risk factors and indicators, including:

  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of energy
  • High blood pressure, hypertension
  • Morning headaches
  • Obesity
  • Waking gasping for air
  • Waking with dry mouth
  • Memory issues
  • Frequent urination at night

“The difficulty is getting patients to realize if they may have a potential sleep disorder. We often hear a patient say, ‘I sleep just fine.’ However, they have several other health conditions that may be due to the underlying sleep disorder. Our response to these patients is that though they feel they sleep well at night, their body may have an underlying issue they do not realize” Brown added.

The consequences are more than just reduced quality of life and excessive daytime sleepiness. If left untreated, sleep disordered breathing can have serious and life-threatening consequences; such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, memory problems, weight gain and other major ailments.

“The risk of heart disease is quite high in people with sleep disordered breathing. The strain placed on the heart during these events is so. The heart rate will increase and decrease during each of these breathing events, straining the heart muscle repeatedly.” Brown explained.

There are some screening tools for sleep disorders (Epworth sleepiness scale, Stop-Bang questionnaire, and neck measurement) however presenting to your provider with your symptoms and that you feel you should have a sleep study is the number one tool. 

“The best thing is SomniTech travels to rural areas to bring this testing to local communities. We perform them right at Osceola Regional Health Center in Sibley,” Brown said.

The sleep study monitors variable items.  The patient is hooked up to different wires that monitor various aspects, such as: the stage of sleep they are in, their effort of breathing, their oxygenation, any limb movements, and their heartrate and rhythm.  Any abnormality in any of these aspects can point to different types of sleep disorders.

The gold standard treatment for someone with sleep disordered breathing is a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine.  This machine acts like a splint for the airway, helping hold it open while pushing air through. Various PAP machines and settings are available, depending on the person’s type of sleep disordered breathing they are diagnosed with. The result of obtaining treatment is many, including:

  • Improved glucose levels
  • Lowered daytime sleepiness
  • Lowered risk for heart disease
  • Lowered risk for high blood pressure
  • Increase in energy
  • Decrease or elimination in morning headaches
  • Elimination of snoring

For more information about sleep apnea, visit or contact Osceola Regional Health Center at 712-754-5304.