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Sleep Apnea: The Unsuspected Killer Essay

2334 words - 9 pages

In spite of their efforts to ensure they obtain sufficient sleep to prevent daytime sleepiness, many people are consistently tired during the day. Some of them have a breathing disorder called sleep apnea, although they may be completely unaware of this fact. When the symptoms of sleep apnea are unrecognized or ignored, the disorder usually causes a combination of medical, social, and psychological illnesses -- which can become life-threatening over a prolonged period. Although sleep apnea is not a curable disorder, when symptomatic individuals utilize the availability of a simplistic diagnosis process and effective treatments, they will participate in a preventative medicine, adding years to their lives.

Although sleep seems to be "...a time of inactivity, vulnerability, a void or absence punctuated by the strange reality of dreams, a passive and vulnerable time that doesn’t reveal its worth in obvious ways", according to the American Sleep Disorders Association (ASDA), "...sleep is not merely a time out from daily life. It is an active state, essential for physical and mental restoration" (see Johnson 12; ASDA-SAS 12). In fact, Ralph Pascualy, in his book Snoring and Sleep Apnea, states: "Scientists were surprised to discover that brains are anything but idle during the night." Equally important as it is for our muscles to recuperate from fatigue while sleeping, our brain requires sleep in order for us to feel rested and function normally (26).

After learning of the extensive value of sleep, one should make every effort to ensure they have plenty of time to not only achieve ample quantity of sleep, defined by hours (differing among individuals, and varying according to age and circumstances), but also quality sleep, defined as "deep sleep" (Pascualy 26-27).

According to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders listing of thirty-three medical and psychiatric disorders that produce excessive sleepiness, sleep apnea is one of the two most common medical causes of moderate and severe sleepiness (ATS-SSDR 1465). "Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that affects people while they sleep. The most common symptom is loud, heavy snoring, which is often treated as a joke." But sleep apnea is no joking matter, as the risks involved are potentially fatal (Pascualy 1). The following case study is provided by Johnson:

Beginning at about age 35, Fred Hampton, an overweight man who drove for a living became increasingly tired during the daytime. He napped frequently at lunchtime. During trips he sometimes pulled off the road to rest when he became too tired to continue. His wife was aware that he snored, had interruptions in his breathing, and gasped for breath during sleep. No one suspected sleep apnea syndrome. At age 40, on the way home from work within three miles of his home he fell asleep at the wheel and hit a tree. He suffered a spinal injury that left him paralyzed below the waist. Only then was he discovered to have severe...

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