QUINCY -- A large percentage of the American population is unknowingly suffering from an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
The National Sleep Foundation's Sleep Health Index said four in 10 report that their daily activities were significantly impacted by poor or insufficient sleep at least once during the past week. The National Sleep Foundation tries to bring awareness to such issues each year during its annual Sleep Awareness Week, which is from March 11 to 17 this year. This year's theme is "Begin with Sleep." The nationwide campaign is meant to make people more aware of the need for getting adequate sleep and the dangers of sleep deprivation.
"Sometimes people don't even realize they feel bad," said Stephanie Shoen, Denman Medical respiratory therapist. "The body gets so compensated that people think its normal."
One of the more common sleep disorders, which can have a serious negative impact on one's health, is obstructive sleep apnea. Mayo Clinic said obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. This narrows the airway and makes breathing inadequate for 10 to 20 seconds at a time, which may cause oxygen levels to drop and carbon dioxide levels to accumulate.
"It can stress your heart, and any existing cardiac problems may worsen," Shoen said, noting that the disorder also can have a negative impact on hypertension and diabetes. "When someone has sleep apnea, it takes longer for their body to heal."
Shoen said indicators of such an issue can range from excessive daytime fatigue to snoring at night.
Blessing Sleep Center Supervisor and Manager Suzanne Bogue said that the awareness of sleep disorders have been growing over the years, and many physicians are more inclined now to check for sleep issues. Bogue said it should be discussed with a primary care physician when a patient is "extremely foggy, can't focus, struggles to retain information or when the reflexes are not where they should be."
Bogue said obesity plays a big role in obstructive sleep apnea, as does neck, tonsil and adenoid size.
Obstructive sleep apnea is treated with either a CPAP or BiPAP machine, which deliver pressurized air through a mask worn at night.
"Half the battle is getting people into something they are comfortable with. They make new masks with memory foam, which makes a difference," Shoen said. "There are people who can't sleep without it because it makes them feel great."
Denman Services' stores will be offering free PAP checks during Sleep Awareness Week. The checks will be held on Tuesday at Denman Medical, 1020 Broadway, in Quincy; Wednesday at Hannibal Medical, 5 Diamond Blvd., in Hannibal; Thursday at Illini Health Services, 121 North Franklin St. in Pittsfield; and Friday at Macomb Medical, 531 E. Grant St. in Macomb. Appointments are required and can be made by calling 217-277-5334, by emailing email@example.com, or by contacting the store directly.