Sleep Apnea: A Sleep Disorder That Shouldn’t Be Ignored

Area Physician Shares Dangers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

DAYTON, Ohio (February 15, 2013) – A good night’s rest is something that many people take for granted, but  for those who snore, getting the amount of sleep their bodies require is likely a rare occurrence. 

Coupled with interruptions in breathing, snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea.  If ignored, obstructive sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems.

“Snoring is considered dangerous if there are pauses in breathing,” said Melinda Ruff, MD, a Premier HealthNet physician practicing at Centerville Family Medicine. “When the breathing gets shallow and a person stops breathing and starts again, usually with a loud snort or a choking sound, you could be dealing with obstructive sleep apnea.”

The causes of sleep apnea are diverse and can include age, being overweight, having a larger tongue or tonsils, having a narrow airway, the shape of a person’s head and even how a person’s teeth come together.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly 18 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea, and typically, they are unable to identify their symptoms without the help of someone else.

“Usually, it’s a sleeping partner who will tell you that you seem to be snoring one minute and are gasping for air the next,” Dr. Ruff said. “Another sign is excessive sleepiness during the day.”

For those who suspect they are suffering from sleep apnea, Dr. Ruff suggests keeping a sleep diary.  Monitoring bed time, wake-up, naps and the level of sleepiness a person feels throughout the day are all important indicators to include. For some, asking a sleep partner to assist by observing the number of times breathing stops during the night can help with the process.  The most important step, Dr. Ruff said, is to schedule an appointment with a primary care physician to discuss symptoms and the sleep diary, which will help to determine if a sleep study needs to be conducted.

Dr. Ruff cautions that excessive daytime sleepiness and sleep apnea should not be ignored.

“If left untreated sleep apnea can cause severe fatigue and is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness,” Dr. Ruff said. “Sleep apnea also increases your risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke because it’s decreasing the amount of oxygen in the blood. It can also increase your risk of obesity and diabetes.”

In order to treat or deter the onset of sleep apnea, Dr. Ruff suggests lifestyle modifications such as maintaining a healthy weight or losing a moderate amount of weight if necessary, side sleeping to keep airways open and avoiding alcohol or other sedatives.  For allergy sufferers, she suggests taking an antihistamine before bed or using a nasal steroid.  Smokers will also see a decrease in snoring and sleep apnea by quitting.

Primary care physicians are the first stop for diagnosing and treating sleep problems and disorders. Physicians can advise patients on healthy habits or prescribe medication to address sleep problems. Sometimes, however, additional observation and expertise is required, so a patient might be referred to a sleep specialist. The Miami Valley Hospital Center for Sleep and Wake Disorders and the Sleep Center are two places in Southwest Ohio where referred patients can go for sleep disorder testing and treatment. 

View frequently asked questions about sleep health.


Contact Us

Discover more about Premier Health and join us in building healthier communities in Southwest Ohio. Learn more about working at Premier Health, becoming a volunteer, and making a gift to support our mission.