Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder that can interrupt someone’s breathing at night. When someone has sleep apnea, they will stop breathing repeatedly as they try to sleep. In some cases, people with severe sleep apnea will stop breathing hundreds of times a night. Every time they stop breathing, they are denying their body and brain the oxygen that they need.
What Is Sleep Apnea?
There are two main types of sleep apnea, although it is possible to have a blend of both conditions. The main types of sleep apnea are:
Central Sleep Apnea: This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain forgets to tell the muscles to breath. This is generally caused by some type of problem in the respiratory control center. Basically, the central nervous system is not functioning correctly. Unlike the more common obstructive sleep apnea, people with central sleep apnea rarely snore.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is made when the airway is blocked while you are asleep. This normally happens because soft tissue on the back of your throat collapses as you sleep. This common form of sleep apnea is normally accompanied by snoring.
Complex Sleep Apnea: If someone has a blend of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, they are diagnosed with complex sleep apnea.
The Symptoms and Side Effects of Untreated Sleep Apnea
If you have sleep apnea, you will often wake up feeling tired. Even when you have slept for hours, you will still feel unrefreshed and fatigued. Since your body was unable to actually rest when you were sleeping, your mind is not prepared for the day. You may have problems concentrating or focusing during the daytime. This happens because your body woke up dozens or hundreds of times during the night. Often, people with sleep apnea are not even aware that their body wakes up each time.
Unfortunately, depriving your body of oxygen can end up harming your health over the long-term. People who have untreated sleep apnea may end up developing:
– Heart disease – Depression – High blood pressure – Stroke – Pre-diabetes and diabetes
Sometimes, it is difficult to figure out if you are suffering from sleep apnea or not. The most obvious symptoms will typically occur when you are sleeping. One of the ways that you can find out is by asking a loved one, friend or family member to watch you sleep. You could also try recording yourself with a camera as you sleep. If you notice gasps followed by long pauses, choking or long pauses between your snores, then you may have sleep apnea.
Some of the main symptoms that you could have sleep apnea include:
– Snorting, choking or gasping while you sleep – Chronic, loud snoring nearly every night – Waking up in the middle of the night feeling breathless or short of breath – Feeling sleepy during the daytime even when you slept enough last night
There are also a few secondary signs that you could have sleep apnea. Watch for the following symptoms:
– Awakening in the middle of the night – Insomnia or restless sleep – Waking up with a sore through or a dry mouth – Impotence – Headaches in the morning – Frequently needing to go to the bathroom at night – Depression, moodiness or irritability – Forgetfulness – Problems concentrating
Do I Snore Or Do I Have Sleep Apnea?
There are many people with sleep apnea who never snore. Likewise, there are many people who snore and never have sleep apnea. Snoring alone is not a sign that you have sleep apnea for sure. One of the best ways to tell is to look at how you feel during the day. Typical snoring will not make you feel fatigued after a long night of rest. Meanwhile, sleep apnea will prevent your body from getting enough rest, so you will feel sleepy during the daytime.
Who Is at Risk?
This condition can affect anyone of any gender or age. The most common risk factors for sleep apnea include:
– Being overweight – Having a large tongue, large tonsils or a small jaw bone – Being male – Having allergies, a deviated septum or sinus issues obstructing your nasal passages – Having a family history of sleep apnea – Being over the age of 40 – Having gastroesophageal reflux disease – Having a neck size bigger than 17 inches for men or 16 inches for women
If you believe that you have sleep apnea, it is important to see your doctor immediately.
Sleep apnea can be a serious sleep disorder, so it is important to go to your doctor to be diagnosed. Once you have been officially diagnosed, your doctor will help you find the right treatment option.
There are some things that you can do at home to reduce the chances that you will experience sleep apnea. Losing weight, quitting smoking and getting exercise will help reduce sleep apnea symptoms. Likewise, you should reduce your intake of sedatives, alcohol or sleeping pills because these can relax the throat and interfere with breathing. Sleeping on your side can help prevent your airway from becoming obstructed. Likewise, you may want to try a nasal dilator or breathing strips to open up your nasal passages before bedtime.
For severe sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend surgerical procedures, continuous positive airflow treatment (CPAP), dental implants or other implants. Out of these options, CPAP is the most common treatment prescribed for moderate to severe sleep apnea. This treatment consists of a mask that is worn over your mouth and nose. The machine pumps air through the mask so that you receive a continuous stream of air flow as you sleep. In recent years, these machines have become more comfortable and lighter, so you may not realize that you are even wearing it.