Check yourself out for sleep week

March 8, 2017 GMT

Bridgeport Hospital has designated the week leading up to Daylight Saving Time — which starts Sunday — as Sleep Awareness Week, and the medical director of Bridgeport Hospital’s Center for Sleep Medicine is asking those with chronic snoring problems to see a sleep medicine specialist for help.

“Ironically, snoring is already an indication that your spouse/partner may already be awake,” said Dr. Armand Wolff in a news release. “Snoring is a classic symptom of sleep apnea, a condition caused by obstruction of the airway. The inability to breathe properly literally wakes up the sleeper - sometimes dozens of times in a single night. The sleeper may have no idea these waking episodes are happening.”

Wolff said other symptoms of sleep apnea can accompany snoring. These include extreme sleepiness during the day, insomnia, inability to focus, irritability and headache. Over a longer period, if the condition is untreated, he says far worse issues may occur - high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, heart rhythm problems, diabetes, depression and more.

About 40 milion people have sleep apnea nationwide. Treatments for sleep apnea can vary but the usual course of action is wearing a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device, which pumps a gentle stream of air into the airway, keeping it open during sleep. Older and larger CPAP masks covering both nose and mouth have been supplemented in recent years by more comfortable nasal-only models. The Center for Sleep Medicine provides fitting and testing to ensure that each patient has a device that is most comfortable individual tastes.

One risk factor for sleep apnea is obesity, and sometimes, simply losing weight can help alleviate the condition. Surgical options are also available for providing a less obstructed airway.

There has also been a trend toward more home testing, versus spending the night in a sleep lab. This option allows the patient to be fitted with equipment during an office visit, then carry home a portable device that measures breathing patterns, heart rate and other physical activity during sleep. The portable device is then returned to the sleep lab and the results are analyzed.