What Is Sleep Apnea? The Silent And Growing Epidemic

Sleep apnea is a particularly insidious condition because so many sufferers of this often devastating sleep disorder don’t even know they have it. And because they don’t know, it can’t be treated properly. The disorder is extremely widespread and growing.  Some experts believe that over 18 million Americans are affected but only 8 million are aware of the fact, leaving well over 50% undiagnosed.  When it comes to this disorder what we don’t know can most definitely hurt us.

Sleep apnea

People who have sleep apnea but don’t know it will experience varying degrees of decline in strength and energy levels that typically get progressively worse as the individual is subject to oxygen and sleep deprivation night after night. The afflicted may feel depressed, anxious, tired, and have massive fatigue that never seems to abate.  In fact, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and even scarier large decreases in mental acuity (caused by brain tissue loss) are well known, documented symptoms.

A person with the condition is at a much higher risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Many studies have shown risks to be three times higher than the general population.

Deep restful sleep and a steady, uninterrupted flow of oxygen are essential human health and functioning.  When deep sleep and optimal oxygenation of the body is removed there is no limit to the damage that can be done to the body. In some cases, sleep apnea is even fatal.

The Three Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three different types of this disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea, and a mixed condition (the mixed condition is a fusion of the first two types together).  They are all extremely damaging but one particular type is overwhelmingly the most common: the OSA or Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

OSA is estimated to be the cause of roughly 84% of all apnea cases, followed by the mixed condition with around 15%, and then CSA (Cheyne-Stokes apnea) accounts for the remaining 1%. To be precise, that number is actually slightly under 1 percent.

Interestingly enough, CSA is thought by most experts to develop after a long history of OSA. Somehow the brain gets “used to” the feedback loop and the pauses (apnea) and this very likely changes the way the brain functions over time.

Under Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

Some experts believe that as many as 1-4 people have some type of apnea problem (men, and especially overweight men have a very high risk factor), while others believe that number is closer to 1-15 people.  However, it’s very difficult to quantify because many people have a mild to moderate problem and will never seek any medical treatment.

However, even mild to moderate cases of the disorder, over time, greatly diminish a person’s overall quality of life and health. There is a cumulative effect as night after night the person’s body is deprived of proper hormone release (HGH, and melatonin) and oxygen levels drop off sharply (roughly 3-4%).

Treat Sleep Apnea Early

Treat Sleep Apnea

There is no doubt that this is a very serious medical issue with a lot of scary question marks and a huge impact on our population’s health. Getting more people screened and into treatment has become a large priority in the medical community today.  Proper diagnosis, on a wide scale is sorely needed as well as people taking treatment more seriously.

Understanding how widespread sleep apnea truly is, taking unexplained symptoms seriously from the beginning, and seeking early treatment will make a huge impact on combating this disorder in the coming years.