Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea

One very common sleep disorder is that of sleep apnea. Let’s look at this more closely. Sleep apnea is actually defined as not breathing for a time period of 10 to 60 seconds. The person will suddenly gasp for breath when breathing resumes. Sleep apnea can lead to very serious complications and should not be left untreated. If you think you or your partner may suffer from this disorder, seek medical advice immediately.

The general disorder of sleep apnea can be broken down into three categories:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  2. Central Sleep Apnea
  3. Complex Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Many overweight people will suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. It is caused by the tongue and throat muscles relaxing so much that they actually block the airway. Men normally suffer from this more than women, especially those over the age of 40 and who are obese.

Central Sleep Apnea

This type of apnea is caused by having a defect in the brain’s respiratory center. The brain cannot transmit the appropriate signals to the muscles to keep a person breathing.

Complex Sleep Apnea

This is when a person suffers from both previous conditions, central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is often seen in premature babies.  They often need to be monitored by a sleep apnea monitor for at least two weeks or more after going home from the hospital. Anyone, regardless of age, can develop this form of sleep apnea.

Sleeping Baby

Signs of Sleep Apnea

One sign that you or your partner may be suffering from sleep apnea is snoring. Though this does not mean that everyone who snores has sleep apnea, but snoring is often caused by some form of obstruction. If your spouse tends to snore very loudly then it may be advisable for them to visit your doctor.

It is not unusual for a person with sleep apnea to stop breathing frequently. Some sufferers can have as many as 20 to 30 episodes each night. When breathing resumes they will snort, gasp or snore. If your spouse’s breathing keeps you awake at night, try to make a note of how many times you hear their gasps.

Another sign of sleep apnea is dealing with night sweats. Of course this can also be attributed to menopause as well.

People with sleep apnea will often feel tired all day long. They may also be irritable, depressed, have lots of mood swings and be impatient. Other signs include waking up with headaches or a dry throat. Over time sleep apnea can lead to chronic fatigue and other related illnesses. It can even cause death if left untreated.

All of these signs point to a person not getting enough restful sleep, whether they have sleep apnea or not. A visit to the doctor may be in order so sleep apnea can be ruled in or out.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

The most common form of treatment for sleep apnea patients is to use a CPAP machine (or a continuous positive airway pressure, machine). This is device that must be worn during the night to help keep you breathing.

Other treatments include wearing a mouth guard, or in severe cases surgery may be recommended.

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