The Sleep Center at North Alabama Outpatient Services is fully accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Our physicians are board certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine. The technical staff includes licensed sleep technologists with over 40 years of combined experience. The center has all private rooms with queen size beds and private baths with convenient parking and easy access. We look forward to assisting you by developing a plan to address your individual sleeping concerns.
Sleep apnea is a treatable disorder in which a person stops breathing during sleep, often hundreds of times during the night. Sleep apnea affects millions of men, women and children but is often misdiagnosed, despite its potentially serious consequences. It is estimated that at least ten million Americans have sleep apnea.
“Apnea” is a Greek word meaning “without breath.” Those with sleep apnea literally stop breathing in their sleep! An apnea is clinically defined in adults as a cessation of breath that lasts at least ten seconds; in children, apnea is defined as a cessation of breath that lasts the equivalent of two-and-a-half missed breaths. In addition to apneas, hypopneas are often present; “Hypopnea” also comes from the Greek words “hypo” (beneath, or less than normal) and “pnea”(breath). A hypopnea is not a complete cessation of breath, but instead a reduction in airflow or a struggling to breathe. With each apnea and hypopnea, the oxygen level in the bloodstream typically drops.
The “apnea-hypopnea index” (AHI) or “respiratory disturbance index” (RDI) refers to the total number of apneas and hypopneas divided by the total amount of sleep during the sleep study. The AHI is one measure of the severity of the sleep apnea.
There are three different types of apnea: obstructive, central, or mixed (a combination of obstructive and central.) Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. Usually the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes the airway so that sufferers of sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, as frequently as a hundred times an hour and often for a minute or longer.
With each apnea, the brain receives a signal to arouse the person from sleep in order to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality. People with untreated sleep apnea are generally not even aware of the awakenings, but are only aware that they are sleepy during the day. They may, however, realize that they snore or gasp for air during sleep. Loud snoring, punctuated with periods of silence (the apneas), is typical but is not always present, especially in children.
Consequences of untreated sleep apnea include high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. People with untreated sleep apnea may also complain of falling asleep inappropriately, morning headaches, memory problems, feelings of depression, reflux, nocturia (a need to use the bathroom frequently at night), and impotence. Children with untreated apnea may be hyperactive. Untreated sleep apnea, like sleep deprivation, may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle accidents. Apnea is a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia.
Risk factors for sleep apnea include a family history of sleep apnea, excess weight, a large neck, a recessed chin, male sex, abnormalities in the structure of the upper airway, ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics), smoking and alcohol use. However, sleep apnea can affect both males and females of all ages, including children, and any weight or ethnicity.
The Sleep Center at North Alabama Outpatient Services
2111 Cloyd Boulevard
Florence, AL 35630