Sleep Apnea – General Information
Most of people don’t think that snoring is something they should be overly concerned about. Nevertheless, loud, frequent snoring may be a sign of a common and potentially serious disorder, sleep apnea. If you suffer from this medical condition, your breathing repeatedly stops and starts while you’re sleeping. Sleep apnea often goes unrecognized, even though it is treatable. If you learn to identify its warning signs and how to distinguish sleep apnea from normal snoring, you’ll be able to overcome this disorder and sleep well at night.
In general, sleep apnea affects the way people breathe while they are sleeping. If this condition is untreated, breathing becomes very shallow or briefly interrupted during sleep. The breathing causes are jolting you out of a natural sleep rhythm, since they can occur more than 100 times and usually last between 5 and 25 seconds. For this reason, people who suffer from sleep apnea spend less time in the restorative, deep sleep needed to be productive, mentally sharp and energetic the next day. Furthermore, the chronic sleep deprivation undoubtedly results in poor concentration, slow reflexes, an increased risk of accidents and daytime sleepiness. Eventually, sleep apnea can lead to more serious medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure etc.
Basically, there are three types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea, the commonest type of this disorder, occurs when the airway is blocked because the soft tissue in the throat relaxes during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea often causes loud snoring. Central sleep apnea involves the CNS and it is a much less common type of this sleeping disorder. From time to time, the brains doesn’t signal the muscles that control breathing, so snoring occurs rarely. The third type of sleep apnea is complex sleep apnea, the combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea.
Identifying sleep apnea on your own might be a tricky task, because the most prominent symptoms occur while you’re sleeping. However, you can ask your bed partner to pay attention to your sleep habits or you could record yourself during sleep. In case breathing pauses occur while snoring, and if gasping or chocking follow these pauses, you probably suffer from sleep apnea. Other common symptoms include morning headaches, sore throat or dry mouth when you wake up, having a difficulty to concentrate, learning or memory problems, feeling depressed or irritable etc.
What are the causes of sleep apnea? Although anyone can have sleep apnea, certain risk factors have been associated with this disorder. You are more prone to have obstructive sleep apnea if you are a male, over the age of 65, overweight, a smoker and related to someone with this disorder. Other risk factors include having a thick neck, enlarged adenoids or tonsils, receding chin, deviated septum.
For mild and moderate sleep apnea, lifestyle modification can help in reducing sleep apnea symptoms. Avoiding cigarettes, alcohol, sedatives and sleeping pills is highly recommended for people with sleep apnea. Also, within two hours of going to bed, you should avoid heavy meals and caffeine. If you stick to a steady sleep schedule, you will relax and sleep better. In case you’ve tried lifestyle changes and better-sleep strategies without success, your sleep apnea might be severe, therefore you should see your doctor to get an effective treatment.