After a long, hard day at work, we all look forward to kicking off our shoes, winding down for the evening, and getting a good night of sleep. Sleep is as natural to us as breathing, and is easy to take for granted…until it becomes a problem.

Why is it difficult to get a good night of sleep, even though your body and mind want to rest? There are many explanations, and sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder, will be discussed in this blog entry. Additional causes of poor sleep, such as insomnia, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movements, and circadian rhythm disorders, and will be addressed in future entries.

Sleep apnea is characterized by difficulty with breathing while asleep. This breathing difficulty is called an apnea, and may range in quality, from using more effort to breathe (obstructive sleep apnea) to complete absence of breathing effort (central sleep apnea). Sleep apnea may make it hard to fall or stay asleep. On top of this, sleep apnea affects your health in the long-term if left untreated. Sleep apnea increases your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and death, among others.

Unfortunately, we are often not aware of having sleep apnea because we can’t observe ourselves while sleeping. However, if someone sleeps with you at night, he or she may have seen you stop breathing, or heard you snoring, both of which are signs suggestive of sleep apnea. Other risk factors for sleep apnea include male gender, being overweight, and older age.

How can you figure out whether you have sleep apnea? If you have a sleeping partner, ask him or her whether they have witnessed you snoring or stop breathing while asleep. You can also take the following questionnaire, called the STOP BANG questionnaire, to determine whether you are at increased risk for obstructive sleep apnea, the most common type of sleep apnea. Answering “YES” to three or more questions indicates that you are at higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea, and should see a sleep specialist for further evaluation.

STOP BANG Questionnaire
Have you been told that you Snore?                                                             YES                NO
Are you often Tired during the day?                                                             YES                NO
Do you know if you stOp breathing or has anyone witnessed you                 YES                NO
stop breathing while you are asleep?                                                            YES                NO
Do you have high blood Pressure or are you on medication to                      YES                NO
control high blood pressure?
Is your Body mass index greater than 28?                                                    YES                NO
Are you 50 years old of Age or older?                                                         YES                NO
Are you a man with a Neck circumference >17 inches, or                            YES                NO
a woman with a neck circumference > 16 inches?
Are you of male Gender?                                                                            YES                NO

For more information on obstructive sleep apnea:
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