What is Sleep Apnea?
If you’ve ever suffered from sleepless nights characterized by gasping for breath or intermittent periods of insomnia, chances are you have a condition called sleep apnea. In order to attain the treatment you need, it’s important to understand what sleep apnea is and how this debilitating condition affects your life.
When the airway is obstructed and the brain isn’t receiving sufficient oxygen, it jolts the body awake to restore proper airflow. In fact, this means that sleep apnea sufferers may be awoken 20 to 30 times per hour throughout the night in order to re-establish airflow. The common symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Silent pauses in breathing
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Choking sounds
- Unrefreshed sleep
The Three Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea. This occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes and blocks the airway.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is not as common and occurs when the brain doesn’t signal the muscles that control breathing – snoring is not as prominent in people with this type of sleep apnea.
Complex/Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of these two – obstructive and central – together.
The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart failure, heart attacks, and heart palpitations
- Worsening ADHD
- Chronic headaches
The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Waking up tired from a lack of sleep affects every area of your life. While not everyone will experience the same symptoms, it’s important to understand the warning signs in order to seek treatment before the condition worsens. These symptoms can affect everyday function and possibly inhibit your ability to remain healthy and active.
When a person experiences difficulty breathing throughout the night, it often leads to sleep apnea symptoms including:
- Choking at night
- Sweating and chest pain during sleep
- Headaches that increase in frequency and severity
- Inability to sleep
- Fatigue throughout the day
- Memory problems
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Unlike many other health conditions that have a single cause, obstructive sleep apnea can occur due to a wide variety of factors, ranging from family history to obesity. However, there are certain behavioral and health factors that increase the likelihood of developing a sleep disorder. These factors include:
- Family history
- Enlarged neck, tongue, or tonsils
- GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease)
- Smoking and Drinking alcohol
Although many risk factors for sleep disorders can be counteracted, it’s important to note that your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea are greater if you have a family history of Obstructed Sleep Apnea (OSA).
Frequently Asked Questions
Obstructive sleep apnea is a severe medical condition where a person’s breathing repeatedly stops throughout the night due to an obstruction in the airway. The continuous lack of oxygen disrupts your sleep pattern and results in extreme fatigue, lack of focus, and more.
There are numerous ways for an airway obstruction to occur. Factors like obesity and genetics can result in a neck circumference that’s either too large or too small. Other times patients have excess soft tissue in their throats that can easily obstruct while sleeping.
Although you may be sleeping over 8 hours each night, sleep apnea causes you to constantly wake up throughout the night, many of the times without you even knowing.
Each sleep apnea episode will alert your brain to wake you up so your airway can open again. This prevents you from getting into a deep sleep and can occur up to 30 times or more each hour throughout the night.
Whether you’ve received a diagnosis or not, untreated sleep apnea can be fatal. It can lead to severe conditions including high blood pressure, depression, cardiovascular disease, heart attack. Patients had strokes, fatigue-related car accidents, and an overall decrease in their quality of life.