Sleep Apnea - And you thought time change was hard on your sleep!

Mar 14, 2022

By Barret Procyshyn, Pharmacist at Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy

With our clocks pushing an hour ahead and us loosing an hour of sleep from Saturday into Sunday, some of us might be feeling a little more tired than usual. However, if you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea this might be an all too familiar feeling. Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious health condition and sleep disorder when people stop breathing for at least 10 seconds, or more at a time. Over two million Canadians may have obstructive sleep apnea, many of which are undiagnosed. As in other chronic illness, when it goes undiagnosed, it often has more severe outcomes. Obstructive sleep apnea is due to a blockage of the airways by weak or relaxed muscle. IF untreated it puts you at risk for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Evidence shows it will shave years off your life.

Snoring is one of the hallmark symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, however we all snore at some point or another. Change in sleep positions, especially to the back can precipitate snoring. A common cold, COVID-19, seasonal allergies and too much alcohol causing muscle relaxation can obstruct the nasal passages. Snoring is not necessarily something to worry about unless its extremely loud or intense with notable pauses in breathing. If your partners snoring sounds like a dying animal and then cuts out, you might want to book them a doctor's appointment. While most do not realize they snore, if you are waking up gasping for air or choking, it could mean there is an obstruction. Being tired or fatigued is also a key indicator along with snoring. Falling asleep anytime you have a moment to means you are fatigued.

As mentioned, obstructive sleep apnea often leads to hypertension. As a person stops breathing, the nervous system goes into action and raises blood pressure. Also, the body releases stress hormones which build to also raise blood pressure. While this might not be a tell-tale sign of sleep apnea, combined with the others, it is a definite warning sign you should take note of. Sleep apnea treatments have been shown to lower blood pressure again showing how proper sleep and health are linked.

Being overweight or obese also is connected. Extra weight and fat tissue in the mouth, tongue and neck collapses those soft tissues, making it extremely difficult to easily breathe without snoring. Large neck circumference is also related to increased risk. If a male wears a dress shirt with a neck size bigger than 17 inches or a female larger than 16, the risk level goes way up. Weight loss in a key part of effective sleep apnea management. Due to increased body mass indexes seen in North America we are seeing increased prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea.

Two thing we cannot control, or change is age and gender. As we get older our muscle tone weakens. Being over the age of 50 puts you at increased risk. Males are also more likely to develop this sleep disorder than females. Men carry more fat in their upper bodies, including their necks and even tongues making proper sleep breathing more difficult. Women are not off the hook though, as we see it more commonly after menopause.

The first step to ensuring a healthy sleep is obtaining a proper diagnosis. Sleep tests are easier than ever to obtain. Gone are the days of having to travel to Winnipeg to spend the night in a lab or to Brandon to a hotel room for the night. A Level 3 at home sleep test is available via Careica Health (formerly Rana Medical) via the Dauphin Clinic Pharmacy. We can save you travel time and gas as we are a pickup location for their sleep study kits. The first step is to get a referral to your family physician. We then forward the referral to Careica and they get you booked in for an appointment. Careica provides the training via video conference and the study it done at home, in your own bed. You pick up the sleep monitor kit, which hooks up to your finger and nose at the DCP. It measures your oxygen levels in your body and air passage in your nostrils overnight. The sleep study kit is returned to the pharmacy, we download the information and send it to Careica. A respirologist looks at the results and will contact you and your family physician. From there a treatment course can be determined. Currently this sleep study costs $194.75, which may be covered by your insurance like Blue Cross or Sunlife.

If you or your partner notices your sleep may be impaired a sleep study can be a very good investment. Never forget to invest and commit to improving your health, as its often the one thing you cannot buy back.

The information in this article is intended as a helpful guide only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional advice. If you have any questions about your medications and what is right for you see your doctor, pharmacist, or other health care professional.


Read more Health Articles

Unite Interactive