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Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea and what you can do to treat it

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If you find yourself pouring more coffee than you should each day and waking up feeling even more unrested than the day before, you may be wondering if you have a sleep disorder.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that each adult get seven to nine hours of sleep every night. So, if you're getting the right amount of sleep, but you just never feel rested, it might be time to evaluate your quality of sleep.

Sleep study

Doctors recommend starting with a sleep study. There are a number of places that perform them. FOX4 traveled a location associated with North Kansas City Hospital and it looked like a small hotel.

At the location, a patient will go into the sleep center before their normal bed time. They’re allowed to go about their normal routine- take medicines and eat whenever they want, but they will have a cut-off time for consuming caffeine.

“We start with the EEG, we’re monitoring different parts of the brain it allows us to see whether or not a patient is awake asleep, what levels of sleep they get into,” Kynda McCurdy said.

There are also sensors placed on the abdomen, chest and legs to monitor movement.

“The most common thing the doctors are looking for is apnea, and so we’re monitoring for the different types of sleep apnea,” McCurdy said. 

Patients are led through a short series of tests to calibrate the sensors. Then they drift off to sleep while techs watch what’s happening with the patient’s vital signs.

A sleep study can also help diagnose other disorders including excessive leg movements and narcolepsy.  But sleep apnea is the most common disorder.

James Kinzey

Sleep apnea patients wake up multiple times in an hour to breathe. Many times they don’t even realize it and their oxygen levels drop significantly. All that waking up can make them very tired.

James Kinzey has obstructive sleep apnea. For years, he knew he was tired, but he wasn’t entirely sure why.

“I would eat a little breakfast and then go sit down on the couch, and I was out,” Kinzey said.

He added that it then impacted his physical health. He even gained weight.

During the sleep study, doctors prescribed Kinzey a CPAP machine. He instantly noticed a difference.

“One of the other things that’s changed so much is mood- if you’re only getting an hour and a half- two hours of sleep – you’re pretty hard to live with- so that’s been a big,” Kinzey said.

Kinzey said when the doctors prescribed the machine, he imagined it would be a big clunky device, but he said he was surprised how small and quiet it is.

CPAP machine

If a CPAP is not for you, there are other devices out there- including a mouthpiece, patches, and even some surgically implanted mechanisms.

“Sleep apnea, if it goes untreated, has also long-term consequences," Dr. Scott Shorten said. "There is an increased risk for heart attacks, diabetes, even mounting evidence that there’s a risk of dementia.”

Think you might have sleep apnea. Check the warning signs-- snoring, extreme sleepiness, irritability, depression, difficulty focusing, and falling asleep while at work on the phone or driving. Those are all potential signs you have sleep apnea.

According to Dr. Scott Shorten from North Kansas City Hospital- the risk factors include: being a man, smoking, your neck circumference, and a bmi greater than 35- which is considered obese.

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