Sleep apnea is a disorder suffered by up to 6% of the population. Most people who have this don’t know, which can lead to a risk of serious health problems later in life.
The disorder mainly affects breathing patterns during sleep, and is seen by periods where breathing pauses anywhere from ten to thirty seconds during the night. This causes restless sleep, fatigue, and can lead to the development of other health issues.
When you learn the symptoms and causes of sleep apnea it will help in knowing whether you need to seek medical advice and treatment.
What are the Different Types of Sleep Apnea?
The symptoms can range from mild to severe. In chronic cases, immediate medical attention should be sought.
Sleep apnea presents itself in two main categories. The most common is obstructive apnea. This is pauses in breathing that are caused by throat muscles relaxing while sleeping.
A less common form is central sleep apnea. While the symptoms are identical, the cause is quite different. This form of apnea occurs because the brain fails to send proper signals to regulate breathing during sleep.
In very rare cases, it’s possible to suffer from both types of apnea at the same time.
What are the Symptoms and Warning Signs?
Apnea can be difficult to self-diagnose, and it is always a good idea to seek medical advice if you notice any of the symptoms in yourself or somebody close to you.
Symptoms can include:
• Excessively loud and continuous snoring. This is most common in cases of obstructive apnea.
• Intermittent and violent snoring. This occurs directly after breathing has been obstructed. This will be evident to parents watching children sleep, or to anyone who sleeps with a partner.
• Sudden waking during the night, accompanied by shortness of breath.
• Signs of fatigue, even after long periods of sleep.
• A general feeling of malaise, despite getting regular rest.
• Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.
• Mood problems during the day, including lack of focus and irritability. This is caused by a lack of restful sleep.
Snoring in itself is not a confirmation that you or somebody close to you is suffering from sleep apnea. Snoring is normal in many individuals. Sleep apnea can often be identified simply based on the pattern of snoring. If the snoring is violent, spaced out, and accompanied by shortness of breath, then this is a strong suggestion that sleep apnea exists.
What Are the Causes and Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is common problem, and the rate of diagnosis has increased in recent years. There are a number of risk factors that can increase your chances of developing the condition.
• Sleep apnea can be diagnosed in both men and women, but it is more common in men.
• Being overweight or obese will greatly increase the chances of obstructive sleep apnea.
• Sleep apnea diagnosis is more common after age 40.
• Family history can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea.
• Allergies and sinus conditions can lead to the (temporary) development of sleep apnea.
• Being unfit and having a larger neck can increase the chance of having obstructive apnea.
What Complications Arise from Untreated Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is not just irritating and inconvenient. Broken sleep and a general lack of sleep can increase the chances of developing serious medical conditions.
Suffering from this condition can lead to weight gain and over eating. A lack of sleep disturbs hormonal balance which can cause you to eat more than usual. This has an ongoing effect as being overweight will make an existing sleep apnea condition worse. A lack of restful sleep can lead to mental health issues, particularly depression and anxiety.
According to some studies, suffering from sleep apnea can double the risk for depression. Fatigue related to sleep apnea will also cause irritability which can impact interpersonal relationships, and a lack of focus could lead to problems with your career. In extreme cases, sleep apnea can cause high levels of fatigue which makes it dangerous to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinery.
The most worrying problems are related to heart health and diabetes. The risk of type 2 diabetes is increased in long-time sufferers of sleep apnea. Blood pressure is also negatively impacted, and there’s a direct correlation between high blood pressure and apnea. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
Knowing all of the complications, it’s quite clear that apnea is something that cannot be ignored. Any time that symptoms are detected, it’s time to seek medical advice. Thankfully, there are treatment options that are highly effective and affordable in most cases.
Effective Treatments Are Available When You Are Diagnosed with this Sleeping Disorder
Only a doctor can find the right treatment for your unique scenario. Some treatments are not effective in all cases. Ongoing monitoring and talking with your doctor will allow for treatment to be redesigned as your condition changes.
If sleep apnea is caused by obesity, then weight loss can be a highly effective treatment. Excess fat around the neck can cause obstructive sleep apnea. Many sufferers find that working towards a healthy weight range can reduce or completely eliminate the occurrence of apnea during the night.
Machines will be used in some cases. CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) devices are used in moderate to severe cases of apnea. A CPAP machine incorporates a respirator device with a mask that is worn for sleep. The machine creates positive air pressure that keeps airways open, effectively stopping periods of paused breathing. Modern CPAP machines are some what quiet and masks are comfortable to wear. While it can take some getting used to, a CPAP machine could be the solution that provides the restful sleep that you’ve been missing.
Minor cases of apnea can sometimes be treated by changing sleeping positions, or using special pillows made to open airways during sleep.
Don’t Ignore the Warning Signs
Sleep apnea is a condition that you should never ignore. Whether you spot symptoms in someone in your family, or if you suspect that you have sleep apnea; early action is important.
A doctor or sleep clinic can provide the diagnosis that you need to move on to the treatment stage, reducing the risk of developing further problems related to sleep apnea.