Sleep disorders can affect everything from mental quickness to high blood pressure and congestive heart failure, according to Grove physician, Dr. Jim Rutter. Rutter spoke to the Grove Rotary Club and says that men are twice as likely as women to be affected by sleep apnea.

Rutter noted that risk factors include age, obesity and airway obstructions. While excessive snoring is often thought to be the main indicator, he told Rotary members that there are many other symptoms.

One indicator is that a person has daytime sleepiness and doesn't feel rested despite getting eight or more hours of sleep a night. Other indicators include gasping, choking or snorting while sleeping. He noted that oftentimes sleep apnea leads to morning headaches and nocturnal restlessness. "Sometimes men think they are having prostate problems and have to get up in the middle of the night, when it might be that sleep apnea is causing them to wake up instead."

Some risk factors are obesity and a large neck (over 17 inches). Rutter said that it can lead to cognitive defects, mood changes, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) and motor vehicle accidents. Sleep apnea can also lead to a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, diabetes.

Rutter said a proper diagnosis is important because many symptoms also mask other diseases such as restless leg syndrome and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's disease, dementia and Alzheimer.

According to Dr. Rutter, there are two major tests for sleep apnea. One is an in-lab monitored test and the other is a Home Sleep study. He said that some insurance companies require the in-home test first since it is less costly. "The in-lab test is much more accurate. If you have a mild case then the in-lab test is much better because it can detect not only apnea but provide a better diagnosis for other diseases that sometimes have similar symptoms." He recommended the in-home test for severe symptoms when no other disorders are suspected.

While most cases can be treated with a CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure therapy) which uses a wide variety of masks to force air into the nose and mouth and open the airway to oral devices and surgeries to realign the jaw or actually remove a portion of the uvula or soft palette.

Even though there are life-threatening risks, it often goes untreated because most people are not aware they may have the symptoms. Those over 65-years of age are at higher risk as the jaw muscles may relax and the tongue can fall back during sleep and block the airway. Your partner may be more aware of the issues. Another indicator is difficulty keeping blood pressure under control even with medications.

Rutter noted that we now hear more about sleep apnea because people are living longer and obesity is more prevalent.

Children can also have sleep apnea although children are more likely to exhibit

behavioral problems. In children the most common underlying condition is enlargement of the adenoids and tonsils.