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Experts: Screening For Sleep Apnea Could Save Lives

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Do you snore, wake up often during the night, or feel sleepy all day after a good night's rest?

If so, you might suffer from sleep apnea, and a physicians' group has advised doctors to check for the condition in a procedure that could save lives.

Daniel Mazler suffers from sleep apnea.

"You're fatigued, very tired, headaches, occasionally moody," he said.

He is one of up to 18 million Americans with the condition. The most dangerous kind is obstructive sleep apnea, where a person's airway is blocked during the night -- causing them to stop breathing and wake up repeatedly.

Now, new guidelines from the American College of Physicians said doctors should evaluate their patient's for obstructive sleep apnea if they show certain signs or risk factors

"Symptoms include snoring at night, not getting a good night's sleep, daytime fatigue, sometimes feeling short of breath at night, and actually waking up and having difficulty breathing," said Dr. David Fleming, president of the American College of Physicians," and the incidence is increasing because the rate of obesity is increasing in our country."

The best way to diagnose sleep apnea and what type it is, is with an overnight sleep study called a polysomnogram. It is a somewhat inconvenient, but painless test, but experts said the diagnosis that could result is critical.

"Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition associated with a cardiovascular disease, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, as well as cognitive impairment," Fleming said.

The most common treatment is a breathing mask called CPAP that uses slightly pressurized air to keep the airway open during sleep.

Mazler's sleep apnea is severe.

"I lose a lot of oxygen through the night," he said. "My sleep is very fragmented.

The mask did not work for him, and now surgery is his next step.

The American College of Physicians also pointed out that screening for sleep apnea cannot only improve a patient's health and functioning, it can also prevent serious and expensive health problems down the road.

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