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cpap mask

A Glossary of Terms on Sleep Apnea



Sleep apnea is a serious disease that is prevalent in an estimated 18 million Americans. And, unfortunately, many sleep apnea sufferers have no idea they have this dangerous sleep disorder.

Sleep apnea occurs when a person's airflow is restricted during sleep, which causes them to periodically stop breathing. The two most common symptoms are loud snoring and feeling fatigued during the day, even after a long night's sleep. In addition, this sleep disorder gives people a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, especially when it co-occurs with obesity. Considering the fact that this disease differs in severity from person to person, it can sometimes be confusing for a patient to understand their diagnosis.

While some people invest in treatments like CPAP masks, others continue to struggle without relief. To help you better understand this disorder, here are some important sleep apnea terms that are crucial to know.

Apnea: A pause in breathing during sleep that lasts for about 10 seconds. Each apnea has the potential to reduce airflow by 90% or more. On an average night, a patient with sleep apnea may experience up to 60 apneas per hour.

BPAP: A form of treatment for sleep apnea that involves two levels of airway pressure. A bipap machine will give the patient a higher level of pressure when they inhale, and a lower pressure when they exhale.

Central Sleep Apnea(CSA): This form of sleep apnea is unrelated to an obstructed airway, but rather the brain fails to tell the lungs when to breathe. It is the most common in elderly patients or those who have had a stroke.

CPAP: Another form of treatment that stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. CPAP machines are fitted with specialty CPAP masks and nasal pillows that will provide one fixed level of air pressure to the patient while sleeping. CPAP masks can be versatile, and are worn over the nose or mouth.

Hypopnea: A reduction of breathing by at least 30%. This is measured via a nasal pressure transducer.

Hypoxemia: Low blood oxygen saturation caused by central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): The most common form of sleep apnea. It happens when there is a restriction in breathing despite otherwise normal respiratory effort. Typically, nasal palate muscles relax, causing the soft tissue in the back of one's throat to collapse and block the upper airway.

Overnight Sleep Study/Polysomnogram: This is the standard method of detecting sleep disorders and is done in a lab while the patient sleeps overnight. Electrodes are attached to the body that collect information such as your quality of airflow, brain activity, respiratory effort, eye movements, and blood oxygen saturation.

Hopefully these glossary terms will help you better to understand your diagnosis and how to handle your treatment.