Sleep Apnea – Have You Got It?

Sleep apnea actually means a cessation or stopping of breath. It is a condition which causes a person to stop breathing for short periods of time whilst they are sleeping. For some people the pause in breathing only lasts several seconds, whereas for others it can be over a minute. Some people who have sleep apnea do not stop breathing but breathe very shallowly instead. It is a sleeping disorder that is found in many people. Everybody’s muscles relax when they are sleeping. However, in some people the muscle relaxation is so great that it restricts their breathing.

Like other sleeping disorders, it can go undetected for long periods of time, because people are not usually aware of what they do whilst asleep. Sleeping disorders are often discovered by a family member or spouse of the person who is suffering. This is because they are woken up or disturbed by the person with the sleeping disorder. If the issue is not addressed, the consequences can be severe.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

  • A feeling of sleepiness during the daytime hours
  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for air when waking in the middle of the night
  • Headaches during the day
  • Choking during sleep
  • Snorting during sleep
  • Waking up on a morning without feeling refreshed

There are many other symptoms of sleep apnea.

What is the Most Common Form of Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common form, and in the most extreme cases, it can be life-threatening. It is caused by the repeated collapse of the upper airway in a person’s throat. This blocks or narrows the airway, causing a reduced amount of air to be able to enter the lungs. This can cause loud snoring. However, snoring is not always a symptom of sleep apnea and people who have it do not always snore. It is better to look at how the person feels the next day, if they are tired and irritable all day, they may have sleep apnea.

What are the Other Types?

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is much rarer than OSA. This occurs when the brain briefly halts sending signals telling the body to inhale, affecting the person’s breathing cycles.

People that have:

  • Bad arthritis
  • Morbid Obesity
  • Had a stroke affecting the brainstem

These are just a few examples of people that are more likely to get CSA, it is worth noting that this is completely different to OSA, and more common in people who have had illnesses relating to the spine and the brain.

Side Effects

If sleep apnea goes undetected and untreated, the side effects can be very severe.

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Poor short term memory retention

It can even lead to high blood pressure. A person’s heart works harder to pump blood round the body when they are lying down, and has to work even harder if the airway is blocked and there is a low amount of oxygen in the blood. This is known as low oxygen saturation, because no enough oxygen enters the body due to the irregular breathing. The lack of oxygen in the blood makes it difficult for the body to function normally.

What Treatments May Help to Cure Sleep Apnea?

Treatments are very much dependent on the severity of each case.

  • Lifestyle changes to improve health and alter sleeping methods
  • Mouthpieces
  • Breathing devices
  • Medical Surgery

This article has shown you how severe sleep apnea can be, and what a devastating impact it can have on your life and those around you. If you think that you may have sleep apnea, seek professional treatment.