Sleep Apnea – Understand The Disorder

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Sleep Apnea – Understand The Disorder

This is a world wide sleeping disorder that just in America affects over 14 million people. The condition is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep and they can last for a period of 20 to 30 seconds. These sleep apnea episodes can occur normally anything from five to thirty times an hour and as a consequence disrupts one’s sleep. Those with the condition usually snore loudly, snort and gasp for breath whilst trying to sleep. It is generally associated with men and older people, but women and even children can suffer from the disorder as well.

Due to the nature of the condition, those with sleep apnea are not normally aware that they have a sleeping disorder. Because of that it is said that 80% to 90% of those suffering are undiagnosed. It is generally the case that their partners notice the condition and bring it to their attention.

Types of sleep apnea

There are two types. The more common type is called obstructive sleep apnea, and as the name suggests involves a blocked airway, which can be the result of over-relaxed throat muscles and tongue, obesity, and facial and bone structure deformities. The blockage causes breathing to stop and the person begins to struggle for breath and snort.

When a blockage occurs, the oxygen level decreases, while the carbon dioxide level increases. This in turn stimulates the brain to normalize the breathing process and prompts the person to wake up and to open the airway by adjusting the tongue and throat muscles. Breathing then returns to normal accompanied usually by loud snoring. This usually occurs without the person’s knowledge and they may not remember being awake for a short time or even be aware of their gasps for air.

The second type is called central sleep apnea which is the result of the brain’s delayed signals to the breathing muscles. This causes the breathing to stop and as a result the oxygen level starts to drop. This condition is less common than obstructive sleep apnea and is a nervous system disorder brought on by an injury or a disease that involves the brainstem. This could be in the form of a stroke or brain tumour amongst other things. Although those with this condition may not typically snore, they may experience shortness of breath.

Although both types have different causes, their effects are the same: low level of oxygen in the brain, poor sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and sometimes as a result, depression. Side effects can be high blood pressure and heart irregularities when the oxygen reaches a dangerously low level. The condition can be extremely disturbing to bed partners due to the loud snoring and pauses in breath and can lead to the partner suffering from sleep deprivation.

What to do

Since the condition occurs only during sleep it is hard for a person to know they have sleep apnea. If a person suspects they have the condition, especially if they display signs of the symptoms, they can opt to have their sleeping patterns documented. For example, the person’s partner could be asked to record episodes of breath pauses, snoring, choking, snorting etc. If alone, the person can video themselves sleeping to see if the symptoms are displayed. By doing this the findings would determine if seeing a doctor or sleep specialist was required.

When diagnosed, either the doctor or the sleep specialist would put forward treatments or surgeries depending on the severity of the condition. But do not despair. To overcome minor sleep apnea,making some lifestyle changes or behavioural treatments can, and are, very helpful. For example, reducing or avoiding alcohol and tobacco, loosing weight and ensuring that one has regular sleeping hours.

If diagnosed with sleep apnea, professional advice from a doctor or sleep specialist will be necessary to treat the condition satisfactorily.

There are several ways to overcome snoring and sleep apnea, be it the more standard approach of treating the symptoms or by alternative treatments to treat the cause. However one thing is certain, one needs to have good nights sleep. So you owe it to yourself. Check out the information and get the nights sleep you deserve.

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