By Dago Cordova

DENVER (CBS4) – Due to high altitude and lower oxygen concentrations, Colorado has one of the highest incidences of central sleep apnea in the country. That’s according to Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver.

CBS4 talked to a sleep specialist from the hospital, Dr. Raj TerKonda: “Sleep apnea basically means a stop of airflow into your lungs and there’s two types. There’s obstructive sleep apnea, which most people know something about. And then there’s this other entity called central sleep apnea, which is less common nationwide but more common in Colorado due to our altitude.”

While snoring is a common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, you don’t have to snore to have it. Snoring is due to vibration of the soft palate and the uvula, the structure that hangs out in the center of the mouth.

Obstructive sleep apnea comes from obstructions or a collapse of the throat at different levels besides or in addition to the soft palate. It can be due to the tongue falling back and stopping the flow of air, particularly when you’re on your back, it’s worse.

Dr. TerKonda said other symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up at night, gasping or a bed partner saying that you stopped breathing. During the day, symptoms can include fatigue, difficulty to focus, concentrate or having “brain fog.”

“Sleep apnea is associated with an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, sudden death at night, high blood pressure, atrial fibrillation. And other diseases are associated with it including diabetes.”

The doctor said treatments include weight loss, mass therapy or CPAP, a dental device called a mandibular advancement device and upper airway stimulation.

CPAP machines are one of the well known treatments. TerKonda said about half of patients tolerate it well, “Most people will know whether they tolerate CPAP within the first month of getting the machines.”

If you don’t have a sleep partner, the doctor recommends sleep apps that detect snoring and may be able to detect sleep apnea. If you’re having symptoms of fatigue and waking up with a dry throat, the best thing to do is to go see your physician.

Dago Cordova