Written by Sonika Tatipalli
Current Solutions and Insufficiencies
As of now, sleep apnea is one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose. Many people express these symptoms commonly but are unaware of it. In fact, it is estimated that over 80% of the cases of sleep apnea are undiagnosed (Roy), meaning that millions of people around the world do not get proper sleep and risk their lives every day.
If a patient with sleep apnea suspects that something is wrong while they are sleeping, and consult the doctor, some tests can be conducted to confirm this. There are lab and at-home options for the test. If someone decides to go to the lab for further testing, they take a polysomnogram study in which many wires are connected from the patient’s body to a machine. Over the course of sleep, many different vitals are measured (including heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level, breathing pauses, position, and sleep cycle). After analyzing these, the doctor may confirm the case or suggest further testing. A major benefit of a lab sleep study is the accuracy; however, it is less convenient. Therefore, one may prefer an at-home test, which is similar to a lab study, but instead of multiple wires and a machine, a portable breathing test kit is used (“Sleep Apnea Testing and Diagnosis - Sleep Education”).
Although these methods are usually effective, the problem comes with the fact that people are unaware of their symptoms. If someone suddenly awakens, they usually are unsure of the reason, and directly fall asleep again.
Also, when someone pauses breathing, there is a high chance that they are oblivious to this fact. Due to the lack of consciousness of symptoms, people with this condition are unlikely to consult their doctors, leaving themselves at a high risk.
After the condition is diagnosed, the best treatment should be chosen. These vary for the different types and severity of the disease. For obstructive sleep apnea, there are three levels: mild, moderate, and severe. Mild sleep apnea is when a person pauses breathing five to fifteen times in an hour. Moderate sleep apnea is when a person pauses breathing fifteen to thirty times in an hour, and severe sleep apnea is when the same occurs over thirty times in a single hour (“The Dangers of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea”).
For the milder cases of sleep apnea, no medical treatment is required. Instead, lifestyle changes such as sleeping differently and losing weight are recommended (The National Sleep Foundation). Sleeping at different angles can prevent the obstruction of the airway. As stated before, being obese is a large risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea, so losing some weight can also help prevent the blocking of the airway. Another thing would be to reduce the consumption of alcohol and other sedatives, which may cause the tongue/palate to sink.
This treatment should only be used in very mild cases because it would take a long time to become familiar with the changes in practices. If the treatment is more severe, the individual may not have enough time to implement these safely. Due to this, the solution of changing lifestyle is not sufficient for more severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea, and more complex options must be taken. For moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea, it is recommended for the patient to use something that will leave their airway to stay open. There are different options for these, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
One possible treatment for moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea is airway pressures. Although there are many different types of them (which may adjust the amount of pressure passed through depending on if the passage is closing or not), the most common is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). When a patient chooses the CPAP treatment, they must wear a mask that delivers higher-pressure air than normal (“Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic”). This will ensure that the airway is open, which ultimately prevents apnea. Although this is considered one of the best options, some find it too excessive and uncomfortable (“Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic”). Therefore, they choose to use other methods. Something else that may help leave the airway open for the patient is an oral appliance. These work by moving the user’s jaw forward to prevent it from sinking. This is a much more comfortable option than the CPAP treatment. However, it is not as effective as it might not work correctly for all patients (“Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic”).
To reduce a patient’s risk of central sleep apnea (when the brain loses control of breathing muscles), changing lifestyle may help. Reducing the use of opioids and alcohol may be enough to correct the malfunction in the brain. Also, the reason for brain malfunction may be other diseases. Through the treatment of those, patients may be able to reduce or stop their sleep apnea. If this doesn’t work, then one option patients can use is nerve stimulation. This allows a stimulator, instead of the brain, to send signals to control breathing (Hines). The other option is to use supplemental oxygen. This is when oxygen is continually supplied to the lungs during the night, so there is no chance of stopping breathing (“Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic”).
Sleep apnea is a life-threatening condition that many people around the world suffer from without awareness. It is extremely difficult to diagnose, and the few solutions known currently have insufficiencies. Prevention is vital, and more solutions and precautions would make a significant difference.
The article is well-written and very informative. The author effectively explains the severity of the problem and continues by producing well-developed paragraphs on the diagnosis and treatment. She also used clear word choice throughout the article and smoothly transitioned between paragraphs. The author descriptively explained a majority of the ideas, which, in turn, advanced the overall message of the article. Although she explained the different solutions, she does not make clear the exact disadvantages of all of them. Not all of the insufficiencies were stated in the article. This is a major spot to improve, as it should have been a significant part of the section to give the reader a deeper understanding of the necessity of a new solution. Overall, the author wrote a formal, clear, and well-developed essay.
Hines, Jennifer. “5 Most Effective Central Sleep Apnea Treatments.” Alaska Sleep Clinic, www.alaskasleep.com/blog/bid/293388/5-most-effective-central-sleep-apnea-treatments
Roy, Sree. “More Than 936 Million Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea Worldwide.” Sleep Review, 27 Feb. 2020, www.sleepreviewmag.com/sleep-disorders/breathing-disorders/obstructive-sleep-apnea/obstructive-sleep-apnea-worldwide/#:%7E:text=%E2%80%9CMore%20than%2085%25%20of%20sleep,medical%20officer%2C%20in%20a%20release.
“Sleep Apnea - Diagnosis and Treatment - Mayo Clinic.” Mayo Clinic, 28 July 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20377636.
“Sleep Apnea Testing and Diagnosis - Sleep Education.” Sleep Education, www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/sleep-apnea/diagnosis.
“The Dangers of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-sleep-apnea#:%7E:text=Obstructive%20sleep%20apnea%20is%20classified,is%20between%205%20and%2015.
The National Sleep Foundation. “The Latest Treatments for Obstructive Sleep Apnea.” Sleep Foundation, 28 July 2020, www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/latest-treatments-obstructive-sleep-apnea.