Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing! Most times, you gasp or snort yourself semi-awake and start breathing again, but in some fatal cases, you don’t. If you snore at night, it’s usually a bad sign that sleep apnea could be an issue for you.
Two Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be divided into two types. One’s pretty common and it’s known as obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is the other kind, and it’s less common.
With central sleep apnea, your brain just isn’t signaling to your body that you need to breathe. While you’re cognizant of the need to breathe during waking hours, you aren’t aware and controlling it while you’re asleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is when the muscles in your throat relax too much, so that air doesn’t flow. It’s obstructed by the throat muscles and until you gasp, snore or snort yourself through it, you’re not breathing.
When you stop breathing, it might be for just a split second, or it can be minutes long. Imagine not breathing for minutes! If you have a spouse sleeping with you, it can be terrifying to them to hear you stop snoring and a minute later gasp or snort yourself awake. It also disrupts their sleep, but that’s a topic for another time.
This type of condition leaves you tired because you never are able to get into a deep sleep – your sleep is always shallow. You’ll be overly tired during the day, stressed and possibly using food to keep up your energy.
Sleep apnea doesn’t just happen to people who have weight problems. It can happen to anyone – but it does sometimes lead to weight issues on down the road.
Sleep apnea isn’t something you ever want to ignore. You might joke about snoring from time to time, but this is something that can have serious health consequences for you.
This isn’t a temporary diagnosis like the flu where it comes and goes with a little medicine. With sleep apnea, you have to think long-term treatments and a commitment to changing some habits you’ve formed.
When most people think about sleep apnea, they think about the snoring or gasping involved – about the noise that it makes. What you should really be concerning yourself with is the lack of oxygen flowing through your blood whenever your breathing is brought to an abrupt halt.
Your brain is the one that jolts you awake – it recognizes the lack of oxygen and gives you a silent alarm so that you can catch your breath. Most people don’t even know this has happened to them during the night.
The disruption is so mild that it doesn’t fully wake you up in most cases. It might wake up someone else in the room. But even though you don’t fully wake up, it means you never fully go into a deep sleep, which leaves you feeling tired and irritable.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is a little scarier. While obstructive sleep apnea relies on your brain to sound an alarm that you’re not breathing, in this type of sleep apnea, there’s no signal – that’s the problem!
You might gasp and wake up because of the physical struggle you’re having to breathe. Most people who suffer with this form can’t sleep for long periods of time – and they can’t even fall asleep easily.
This form of sleep apnea is usually the result of a stroke or heart failure. Because the waking process is harder, you’ll typically remember how many times you woke up during the night, and it can be very frustrating.
Who has sleep apnea – just the overweight? Just the elderly? No! In fact, thin people and even children can get sleep apnea. Both men and women can suffer from it – and it usually goes undiagnosed until there’s someone else sleeping in the room to tell you about it.