HEALTHY LIVING
01/26/2012 04:47 pm ET Updated Feb 22, 2012

5 Tips For Battling Hypopnea Syndrome

Hypopnea syndrome is a common sleep disorder. It usually affects people who are overweight or who are genetically predisposed to it. We spoke to Clifton Hunt, M.D., a founder of Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers based in Wilmington, Delaware, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think you might have hypopnea syndrome, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Holly Quinn

Hypopnea syndrome is a feature of the better-known sleep disorder sleep apnea. A person with hypopnea has his airway partially blocked while sleeping, by genetics or weight, reducing oxygen intake. According to Dr. Hunt, hypopnea can cause or worsen heart disorders and strokes and is a treatable cause of dementia. People with hypopnea syndrome, Dr. Hunt explains, "will sometimes wake up gasping for air, make strange noises while they sleep and almost always snore."

Take An Online Screening Test

If you suspect you have hypopnea syndrome, there are online screening tools that can help you determine whether you should call your family doctor a sleep specialist, including the Epworth Test.

Avoid Alcohol

Drinking and hypopnea syndrome don't mix. "Alcohol can make it significantly worse," says Dr. Hunt. Don't drink if you think you may have or have been diagnosed with hypopnea syndrome.

Change Your Sleep Position

Sleep position can affect hypopnea syndrome, because gravity can affect your airways differently depending on how you lie. "Sleeping on your side instead of your back or stomach can shift the airway into a position where it is less likely to be blocked," says Dr. Hunt. Elevating your head with pillows can also improve symptoms.

Lose Weight

Obesity can complicate hypopnea syndrome. "Losing weight can greatly improve the symptoms of the disease," says Dr. Hunt. In fact, if you're severely overweight and there is no genetic cause for your hypopnea, significant weight loss can cure some patients of hypopnea syndrome completely.

Medical Options

Once you've seen a doctor about your hypopnea syndrome, you may start nighttime treatments such as CPAP, a breathing machine you wear while sleeping or an oral appliance. "Surgery to cut the airway open is not as effective as CPAP," says Dr. Hunt, though in some cases surgery is done.

Clifton Hunt, M.D., is the medical director for the Stoney Batter Sleep Center in Pike Creek, Delaware, and is a founder of the Delaware Sleep Disorder Centers based in Wilmington, Delaware. Dr. Hunt is board certified in sleep medicine, pulmonary medicine and internal medicine.

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?

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