Learning More About Sleep Apnea

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What Is It?

Sleep apnea refers to a common medical condition where breathing shortly stops multiple times in a night when you are sleeping. A pause in breathing can be as short as a few seconds and as long as a few minutes. When breathing restarts, it can often be accompanied by a snort or choking noise. These pauses can happen more than thirty times an hour throughout the night.

Whether you have central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, or mixed sleep apnea, this condition is ongoing and has a tendency to ruin a person’s sleep process. Shallow or paused breaths can cause a person to leave their deep sleep cycle, meaning they get far less benefits from sleeping. This results in daytime fatigue and moodiness. Sleep apnea is actually the greatest cause of daytime drowsiness.

A General Look

Since diagnosing sleep apnea can be time-consuming and few are aware that they even have the condition, most sleep apnea cases remain undiagnosed. Though sleep apnea can wake a person up briefly, they usually doze off seconds later and have no memory of each time they awoke.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea; it is when the airway is blocked or collapsed during sleep, thereby leading to pauses of breath and shallow breathing. Attempting to breathe causes tissue in the throat to vibrate, and this is one way snores are created. Obstructive sleep apnea happens most in overweight people since there is more fatty tissue that can potentially block the airway. It can, however occur in any person regardless of weight, age, gender, etc.

As for the less common central sleep apnea, this is of the brain not sending the right signals to operate the breathing muscles. Snoring is less common with this condition. This is more of a communication issue while obstructive sleep apnea is a more physical or mechanical issue. Central sleep apnea can also be diagnosed in any person, though it is seen more in those with certain medical conditions and/or prescriptions.

The Risks

If not treated, sleep apnea can heighten the risk of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, and it can even make day-to-day accidents due to excess tiredness more probable. Sleep apnea is chronic and needs long-term attention and often a variety of treatment methods combined.

Who Is More Susceptible?

There is a strong correlation between obesity and sleep apnea and high blood pressure and sleep apnea. Men are also much more at risk than women. Older adults and those with a family history of sleep apnea also have an increased risk. On a physical level, having a small airway or a large neck can lead to congestion that can cause sleep apnea. As well, a child that is overweight or has enlarged tonsil tissues blocking their throat could be at a greater risk.

Notable Symptoms and Signs

Frequent, noisy snoring as well as choking, gasping, and snorting sounds can be a sign of sleep apnea. Snoring can be louder when lying on your back. Keep in mind that you can still have nights when you do not snore and that not all people who snore have a sleep apnea condition.

Other prevalent symptoms will include morning headaches, depression, dry mouth and/or sore throat, waking more often to urinate, daytime sleepiness, moodiness, and irritability. Children with sleep apnea might be more hyperactive, moody, avoid breathing with their noses, and can start to do poorly in school.

If you think you might have sleep apnea, you should contact your doctor or a specialist so that you can get diagnosed and start looking into treatments, such as CPAP therapy.


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