Awakening throughout the night, snoring and waking up in the morning feeling exhausted ... if these symptoms sound familiar, you might have sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a person to have interrupted breathing patterns during which he/she stops breathing and then starts again.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, there are two types of sleep apnea.
The first is “obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.” The second is “central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.”
Some people stop breathing over 100 times during a single night. One reason this is so dangerous is that each time breathing stops, the risk of oxygen deprivation is present.
The whole body suffers if it doesn’t receive oxygen. However, two organs in particular, the heart and brain, are jeopardized.
There is a strong possibility that when breathing is interrupted or stopped, even if it’s only for a few seconds, damage may occur to these organs. It can lead to high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks (and other heart conditions) and diabetes, according to Web MD.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, half of sleep apnea sufferers are overweight. Sleep apnea is most commonly found in men over 40, but women and children are also at risk, especially if they have large tonsils or have a family history of the condition.
The test that is most commonly used to diagnose this health condition is a polysomnogram, which is a sleep study that uses electrodes and other monitoring devices to record an individual's sleep patterns.
The study can be conducted in a hospital, research facility, and even at home.
Once sleep apnea has been diagnosed, several treatment options are available depending on the severity of the condition.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute said, “Lifestyle changes and/or mouthpieces may relieve mild sleep apnea. People who have moderate or severe sleep apnea may need breathing devices or surgery.”
One type of breathing machine that is commonly used is called a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine uses a mask that fits over the nose, mouth, or both the nose and mouth at the same time and softly blows air to keep the airways from closing.
In some cases, surgery is needed to correct the condition. Doctors may remove excess tissue (such as the tonsils), use techniques to widen the airways, or in some cases may reset the lower jaw.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, consult your doctor.
Chanin, Louis R. "What Is Sleep Apnea? Causes, Risk Factors, and Effects." WebMD. WebMD, 30 July 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
Staff, Mayo Clinic. "Definition." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 24 July 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
"What Is Sleep Apnea?" - NHLBI, NIH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 10 July 2012. Web. 13 Feb. 2013.
Reviewed February 13, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN