Signs of obstructive sleep apnea — snoring, breathing pauses or choking noises during sleep — should not be neglected, because it can lead to serious complications, a physician said yesterday.
Anne Huon (方麗娟), a physician at Cathay General Hospital’s Department of Otolaryngology, cited a case in which a 35-year-old man surnamed Yu (余) suffered from obstructive sleep apnea while studying for his doctorate.
The sleep disorder, which is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep, gave Yu severe headaches every morning for eight years.
Yu’s disorder prevented him from getting sufficient sleep, which in particular affected his memory and subsequently his work, Huon said, adding that he had to give up many job opportunities and often took painkillers for headaches.
More medical specialists are emphasizing treatment of obstructive sleep apnea, because low blood oxygen levels can develop into other serious conditions, Huon said.
About 20 percent of Taiwanese experience insomnia, snoring or obstructive sleep apnea, and in the 40-to-60 age group, about 60 percent of men and 40 percent of women snore, Taiwan Society of Sleep Medicine data show.
The US National Sleep Foundation says that about half of people who snore loudly have obstructive sleep apnea, Huon said.
Obstructive sleep apnea increases the risk of stroke, myocardial infarction and other chronic diseases, and should not be neglected, she added.
Yu sought treatment from Huon and underwent surgery last year. The week after, his disorder had greatly improved, she said.
Risk factors of developing obstructive sleep apnea include obesity, snoring, breathing pauses or choking noises during sleep, Huon said, adding that people who often feel exhausted during the day and have poor sleep quality should ask their partner to listen or keep a sound recorder on when sleeping to learn if they have snoring problems.
Cathay General Hospital yesterday held an international conference on obstructive sleep apnea called Sleep and Dreams of Cathay, where it invited specialists to discuss alternative methods of treating the disorder, other than the leading method of administrating non-invasive continuous positive airway pressure during sleep.
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