It’s a hot buzzword these days, Sleep Apnea, but it isn’t new. Sleep Apnea is a term that described a condition where an individual briefly stops breathing repeatedly through the night, or simply takes very shallow breaths. This stop can be brief, lasting only a few seconds, to lasting a number of minutes. In severe cases, these stops can occur every other minute, with the sufferer suddenly resuming breathing with a loud snorting sound, or something resembling choking.
In most cases, Sleep Apnea leads to disruptions in sleep as the sudden pauses and restarts will lift your body out of a deep restful sleep and into a lighter state, if it doesn’t wake you. This condition leaves the sufferer exhausted during the day, feeling like they can’t get enough sleep. In some cases the individual will wake refreshed, only to feel worn down in the afternoon. Sleep Apnea is the leading cause of drowsiness during the day.
It is unknown precisely how prevalent sleep apnea really is, in part because it often misses being diagnosed. There are no known tests, outside of a sleep study, that can detect sleep apnea, meaning it almost always goes undetected during doctor visits. Typically it is first noticed by a family member, often by their sleep being disturbed by the choking/snorting sounds that accompanies their coming out of a pause.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are multiple types of sleep apnea, but by far the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. In this version of the condition, your airway becomes obstructed during sleep, usually by a form of collapse that blocks the passage. Attempting to breathe while this is happening can cause the subject to snore loudly. This condition is common in those who are over a healthy weight but is also seen in children with enlarged tonsils.
Another known type of this condition is central sleep apnea. With this condition, the area of your brain that is responsible for your breathing fails to send the correct instructions to the muscles responsible for breathing. This, in turn, leads to a cessation of breathing like that with obstructive sleep apnea. It is not unheard of for both conditions to coexist, leading to greater complications.
What Are The Risks Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea can cause many problems for an individual suffering from it. Some of the most common are those that result from a lack of proper sleep, including being foggy-headed, weary in the afternoon, and attention issues.
Without treatment sleep apnea can lead to a number of conditions, including an increased risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, stroke, and heart attack. It can make it more likely that at-risk patients will experience heart failure, and make irregular beating of the heart (arrhythmias) more likely. Unsurprisingly the increased levels of fatigue caused by sleep apnea can also lead to work and driving-related accidents.
If you think you or a family member may be suffering from sleep apnea, get to your physician immediately. Every day you live with sleep apnea is another day spent without good sleep, and with extra strain put on your heart.