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Virginia Car Accident Lawyer: A Closer Look at Sleep Apnea

December 14, 2012 by The Parrish Law Firm

We all experience the 3 o’clock afternoon droopy-eyed fatigue, but what if you’re always feeling tired? What if you’re snoring at home and irritable at the office, maybe even dozing off behind the wheel?

Parrish Law Firm, PLLC is here to give you some information on a condition that can all too easily lead to a car accident from falling asleep behind the wheel, and affects greater than 12 million Americans: sleep apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sleep apnea is a condition where a sleeping individual’s breathing stops multiple times throughout the night. These pauses in breath can last between a few seconds and a few minutes, and can happen greater than 30 times in an hour’s span. The beginning of a new breath after a pause often starts with a chocking sound or loud snort.

The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea, and occurs when there is a blockage in the airway, generally caused by the soft tissue in the rear of the throat. Central sleep apnea, a rare form, takes place when the part of the brain that dictates breathing does not send the precise signals to the breathing muscles.

What are the symptoms?

Prolonged sleep apnea can lead to severe consequences, which may include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Strokes
  • Car accidents
  • Depression
  • Work-related accidents

Who is at risk?

Men are twice as likely to develop sleep apnea than women, but all individuals who are overweight, over the age of 40, smokers, have a family history of sleep apnea, or have a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems are also at risk.

What are the treatment options?

Often times, losing weight can have a significant positive affect on reducing the occurrence of sleep apnea. Sleeping on one’s side instead of one’s back may also be helpful in mild cases.

The most common treatment is the use of a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which utilizes mild air pressure to maintain an open airway passage. The machine consists of a mask that fits over the nose and mouth that connects to the machine through an air tube. Side effects can include stuffy and dry nose, irritated skin, and headaches.

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