What Is Sleep Apnea In-depth?
Was there ever a time while sleeping at night when you found yourself unable to breath? Minutes or seconds when you felt breath get knocked out of your lungs while you gasped for air in futility? Some people even relate it to a ‘spiritual’ attack sent dead in the middle of the night. That is an erroneous attribution but rather a sleeping disorder medical scientist call ‘Sleep Apnea’
Sleep Apnea as defined by Wikipedia is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep. Each pause can last for a few seconds to several seconds and they happen many times per night; in the most cases, it is follow by loud snoring and there may be a choking or snorting sound as breathing resumes.
Due to the interruptions in sleep, affected individuals often suffer from moodiness, hostility, as well as a decrease in attentiveness and energy during the day. Another symptom related to sleep apnea is sleep paralysis, that is the fear of sleeping, which can lead to insomnia and a continuation of which may lead to depression. Other insidious symptoms include High blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, Stroke, Heart failure, and even heart attacks.
More so, untreated apnea may be a cause for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents. Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep witnessed by another person, abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath, awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat (because the mouth was opened instead to enhance breathing), morning headache, irritation and Excessive daytime sleepiness. In worse case scenarios, it may lead to death due to shortage supply of oxygen to the body.
Another dangerous fact about this condition is that it often goes un-diagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine medical visits neither does any blood test help detect the condition. Most people who have this condition are not aware they are affected because it only occurs during sleep. Only a family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.
There are two major forms of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). The most common type is that of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep.
In normal condition, the airway (consisting of the nose, mouth, windpipe and throat), allows the flow of air and oxygen into the lungs as you inhale and the flow of carbon dioxide as you exhale. But when the airway narrows, breathing is impeded and any air that squeezes through this blockage may cause snoring. At other extreme times, the airway closes completely stopping breathing; this is the condition that best describes sleep apnea. OSA is common among overweight persons but it can affect anyone; for example, small children who have enlarged tonsil tissues.
On the other hand, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is a least type of sleep apnea. CSA occurs if the region of the brain that controls breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to the breathing muscles. As a result, breathing is impeded and effort is exerted to breathe for brief periods. Central sleep apnea can affect anyone. However, it’s more common in people who have certain medical conditions or use certain medicines. Central sleep apnea can occur together with obstructive sleep apnea (known as Complex sleep apnea syndrome) or alone and snoring typically doesn’t happen with Central Sleep Apnea.
Sleep apnea can affect people regardless of sex, race, or age. However, those who are more at risk include: being male, excessive weight having an age above 40, having a large neck size (greater than 16–17 inches), having an enlarged tonsils or tongue, small jaw bone, gastro esophageal reflux, allergies, sinus problems, a family history of sleep apnea. Alcohol, sedatives and tranquilizers may also promote sleep apnea by relaxing throat muscles. Also interesting to note is the fact that smokers have sleep apnea at three times the rate of people who have never smoked.
What are the symptoms to experience?
So what are the symptoms that should get you quick acting? Endeavor to Consult a medical professional if you experience, or if your partner notices the following:
- Snoring loud enough to disturb the sleep of others or yourself
- Shortness of breath or choking that wakes you from sleep.
- Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness, which may cause you to fall asleep during working hours, watching TV or even driving.
A less common symptom of sleep apnea is waking up frequently with a desperate need to urinate. When a patient’s breath is disrupted, it pressured the heart. This, in turn, affects a hormone that normally controls urine production in the kidneys.
Similarly, many think of snoring as potential sign of serious apnea but unfortunately not everyone with sleep apnea snores. But be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring, especially snoring that’s accompanied by periods of silence. Ask your health physician about any sleep problem that leaves you chronically fatigued, sleepy and irritable.
How can this sleep disorder be treated? You may be able to treat light cases of SA by changing your lifestyle, for example:
- Losing weight.
- Avoiding alcohol and sleeping pills.
- Avoiding sleeping on your back.
- Changing sleep positions to improve breathing.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can increase swelling of the upper airway, which may worsen both snoring and apnea.
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