In a nutshell, sleep apnea happens when there is an involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep. If you think this sounds serious, you are right! If sleep apnea isn’t treated it can contribute to a variety of medical conditions including heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and depression. Even a simple thing such as feeling sleepy all the time can be linked to sleep apnea. Learning more about sleep apnea, and how it happens, may be the first step in discovering what you can do about it.
THERE ARE THREE DIFFERENT KINDS OF SLEEP APNEA:
1) Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type and occurs when tissue in the throat relaxes during sleep and blocks the airway. Snoring is the most common symptom of this type of sleep apnea.
2) Central Sleep Apnea is not very common and occurs in people suffering from a serious illness. It occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing.
3) Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of obstruction and central sleep apnea.
THESE FACTORS CAN CAUSE OR CONTRIBUTE TO SLEEP APNEA
- WEIGHT - If excess fatty tissues build up in the neck or throat, the airway becomes narrowed or pinched off during sleep. Body weight is directly related to obstructive sleep apnea.
- AGE - With aging, muscles begin to lose muscle tone and this applies to the muscles in the throat. Sleep apnea occurs more after age 40.
- FREQUENT ALCOHOL USE (or sleeping pills and sedatives) - Muscles relax when alcohol is consumed. Once again, this applies to muscles in the throat. The muscles may relax to the point of blocking the airway.
- SMOKING - Inflammation and fluid retention occur in the upper airway and this impedes airflow.
Now that you have an overview of what sleep apnea is and what can contribute to it, here are a few warning signs to watch out for:
- Feeling sleepy and tired in the daytime no matter how much you have slept the night before
- Waking up gasping and snorting or feeling short of breath
- Loud and chronic snoring
- Morning headaches
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Restlessness during the night or waking up several times
It’s easy to understand why diagnosing sleep apnea is important, and why it is a condition that varies amongst individuals. Whether the condition is diagnosed as mild, moderate or severe can affect the type of treatment that is advised. In addition, sleep preferences and lifestyle habits should also be considered. With options such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), oral appliances and even surgery, it is essential to consult with professionals who are experienced and knowledgeable. If you have questions about how to sleep better or want to learn more about sleep apnea, take our sleep study quiz or book a consultation with our highly skilled staff.