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Sleep apnea: Millions of people do not have healthy sleep due to breathing interruptions
Breathing interruptions and snoring prevent a healthy, deep sleep. It is not uncommon for so-called sleep apnea to cause symptoms that can even be life-threatening. The news agency "dpa" spoke to the affected person Olaf Schweren about the illness and accompanied him to the sleep laboratory of the Robert Koch Clinic in Leipzig.
In the sleep laboratory, doctors track down breathing interruptions
In the sleep laboratory it becomes stressful for the sisters from 10 p.m. Because then all patients have to be prepared for the night. They are “wired” so that doctors can monitor their sleeping habits as well as possible. In addition to many values such as oxygen saturation, the patients are also filmed with a camera. A microphone also records the snoring noises. This total monitoring is necessary to determine whether a patient who has trouble sleeping is actually suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Also Olaf Schweren two electrodes are glued to the legs and nine are attached to the head. He must also wear a chest belt and a waist belt. The oxygen saturation in the blood is measured using a pulse oximeter, a clip on the index finger. The patient should now sleep in a single room for six hours. Meanwhile, the sisters are sitting in front of eight monitors in the technology center of the sleep laboratory, where all data is collected. The evaluation is carried out by the doctors the next morning.
Patients with sleep apnea often have no idea of their problems
"I actually had no problem," reports the 56-year-old professional driver. "But everyone around me had a problem!" Severe snores heavily and sleeps poorly. That is why he is often tired during the day. Up to a gastric operation, he weighed 116 kilograms. "My wife always urged me to go to the doctor," he reports.
Thomas Köhnlein, chief physician at the Robert Koch Clinic, is an expert in the so-called sleep apnea syndrome. "Breathing interruptions during sleep are often observed very reliably by the spouses," he explains in an interview with the news agency. But: "The patients generally underestimate this enormously."
Before making an appointment in the sleep laboratory, lung or ENT doctors have already carried out preliminary examinations. Only if you suspect sleep apnea will they be sent to the laboratory to sleep.
Nighttime breathing interruptions can be life-threatening
According to the German Society for Sleep Medicine, about two to four percent of the population in this country suffers from the dangerous breathing interruptions during sleep. Board member Hans-Günter Weess reports to the news agency that sleep apnea syndrome is the second most common of the over 50 known sleep disorders. The serious consequences of the lack of sleep included daytime sleepiness with a tendency to fall asleep, difficulty concentrating, loss of performance and an increased risk of stroke and heart attack in the long term. The breathing interruptions were caused by tired muscles in the pharynx, says Köhnlein.
Overweight people in particular often suffered from sleep apnea because the fat presses on the throat muscles. The pauses in breathing could last up to 30 seconds. During this time, too little oxygen gets into the brain. This in turn reacts with an alarm and wake-up reaction, which the person concerned does not consciously perceive. Often he cannot remember the next morning. Since the breathing interruptions usually occur many times during the night, sleep apnea sufferers are repeatedly torn out of the blow. A healthy dream and deep sleep is no longer possible.
Treatment of nocturnal sleep disorders through breathing interruptions
In order to prevent breathing interruptions at night, patients should usually wear a so-called CPAP mask while they are sleeping. This resembles a small ventilation mask and is connected to a compressor via a hose. The mask is still the “gold standard”, explains Weess. “The compressor creates an overpressure so that the airways no longer close and the misfires disappear. As a result, the patients find themselves in a restful sleep. ”
The CPAP mask must be put on every night. Most patients would be able to cope well with this, explains Köhnlein. “75 percent are still on therapy after one year. It is not a bad result. ” Patients would usually notice a significant improvement from the device. “It is a bit like wearing glasses with these masks. At first you get used to it, but after a month you get used to it. ”
Monika Schmidt, a patient who received a CPAP mask after staying in the sleep laboratory, reports to the news agency about her suffering. “I've had a problem with snoring and breathing interruptions for ten years. I feel as if I am exhausted early, and I have to recover from sleeping, ”says the 71-year-old pensioner. She also suffered from difficulty concentrating and dizzy spells. In the sleep laboratory, 22 breathing interruptions were measured per hour in the woman. Schmidt only wants to sleep with his mask in the future.
Surgery is only necessary in severe cases with sleep apnea
In severe cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to eliminate the misfires. Among other things, doctors can tighten or shorten the soft palate. The length of the tongue and the base of the tongue can also be changed in one operation.
A relatively new procedure is currently being tested in clinical trials worldwide, the so-called tongue pacemaker. The patient is placed a neurostimulator under the skin slightly below the clavicle. A cable that leads to the costal arch measures and transmits the respiratory rate via the diaphragmatic movements. Another cable, which leads an electrode, is connected to the hypoglossal nerve, which activates the tongue muscles. When the patient inhales, the tongue pacemaker sends a pulse to the tongue nerve, causing the tongue muscles to contract. As a result, the airways remain clear. The patient can switch the device on and off in the morning via a remote condition. (ag)
: Judith Schmied / pixelio.de