Sleep apnea is a condition where a person fails to breath (termed apnea) sometimes for a long enough period of time to cause a drop in blood oxygenation. Some people with sleep apnea, especially obstructive sleep apnea, snore loudly and awaken gasping for air. Up to 20% of people with Parkinson’s have sleep apnea.
There are 2 types of sleep apnea:
1. Central- the brain does not send the appropriate nerve signals to initiate and control regular breathing leading to long pauses while sleeping.
2. Peripheral or Obstructive- caused by the block of airflow through the nose, mouth and breathing pathways. Obstructive sleep apnea increases in people who are overweight and more fatty tissue leading to blockage of air passages.
A sleep study or polysomnography
may be needed for diagnosis. Early diagnosis and treatment is recommended to treat or prevent these symptoms that are worsened by sleep apnea. Talk to your doctor and consider a sleep study if you or your partner has any of the symptoms listed below and/or irregular breathing, snoring, or gasping during sleep.
- Heart problems
- Fatigue and reduced energy
- High blood pressure
- Continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) mask that fits over the nose and/or mouth, and blows air into your air passage.
Dental appliances, which reposition the lower jaw and tongue, and upper airway surgery to remove tissue in the airway.
Lifestyle changes are effective ways of mitigating symptoms of sleep apnea. Here are some tips that may help reduce apnea severity:
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Avoid alcohol, sedatives and sleep aids that can relax sleep muscles.
- Quit smoking to reduce airway tissue irritation, constriction and swelling.
- Lying on your side instead of back to open air passages.
[See related articles on sleep problems.]
Author: Monique Giroux, MD
Copyright 2011 Northwest Parkinson's Foundation Wellness Center