Healthcare Tips

National Sleep Awareness Week (March 7-13, 2010) - Canadian Lung Association

May 24, 2017

Are you often very sleepy throughout the day? And do others tell you that you snore or have short pauses in your breathing while you sleep? Do you get a full night's sleep most nights but still wake up tired? You may have sleep apnea, a serious breathing problem that interrupts your sleep.

These breathing pauses called "apneas" can last for 10 to 30 seconds or longer. People with sleep apnea can have dozens or hundreds of these apneas each night. Sleep apnea limits the amount of oxygen people take in and stops them from having the restful sleep they need to stay healthy.

Sleep apnea affects one in 25 men and one in 50 women, according to Dr. John Fleetham, Chair of the Canadian Thoracic Society Sleep Disordered Breathing Committee and a respirologist with Vancouver Coastal Health's Lung Centre. (The Canadian Thoracic Society is the medical society of The Canadian Lung Association.)

Even children are affected . Many people have it, but many go undiagnosed and untreated.

Left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious consequences for your health and safety. "If you have untreated sleep apnea you are up to seven times more likely to have a car crash. You are three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. You are also more likely to have high blood pressure, depression and diabetes," says Dr. Fleetham.

The good news is that treatment is simple and very effective. If you have mild sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, getting some exercise, quitting smoking, avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills and sleeping on your side.

If you have moderate to severe sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend several treatment options. The most common treatment is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which works by delivering a steady flow of air through a special mask to keep your airway open during sleep.

Canadian Lung Association