A Silent and Deadly Disorder
Although most chalk up daytime sleepiness and irritable moods to not having enough coffee, stress, or sleeping less than the recommended eight hours. It can actually be something a lot more serious. Sleep apnea causes an individual to have their breathing interrupted throughout the night.
These pauses in breathing can happen multiple times a night, and can cause you to jolt out of your natural deep-sleep rhythm. It can even cause you to become sleep deprived. When this happens, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability, and poor reflexes can become symptoms of the disorder. There are three different kinds of sleep apnea which include the following characteristics.
Types of Sleep Apnea
• Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common and occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat area actually relaxes too much during sleep and thereby blocks the airway. This is what causes the loud snoring so often described in those who have sleep apnea. If you wake up a lot during the night, it might be because the central nervous system of the brain is trying to reopen the airways so that you can sleep correctly. There are three levels of severity with this type of apnea. Ranging from mild to severe and can range from apnea occurring half a dozen times throughout an hour to one every couple of minutes.
• Central Sleep Apnea: this occurs when the central nervous system fails and thus the brain can no longer send the right signals to the muscles that control when you breathe. Very little snoring is present in those with this disorder. This is a very rare type of apnea only occurring in about 1-5 cases and is often triggered by other medical conditions. These include strokes, Parkinson’s Disease, and brain infections.
• Complex Sleep Apnea: this works as a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea with varying severity.
Are Symptoms Sleep Apnea?
The symptoms associated with the above types include restless sleep, poor concentration levels, very loud snoring, waking up in the middle of the night.Also going to the bathroom numerous times throughout the night, waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat, irritability and mood swings, heartburn, morning headaches, depression, and even impotence. In addition to these, it can actually cause serious physical health problems like liver conditions, weight gain, heart disease, and even diabetes.
What Are The Causes of Sleep Apnea?
The causes of the disorder can range from anything small like allergies that restrict the airways. To enlarged tongues, septum, and tonsils. Also lifestyle choices like recreational drug use and excessive drinking of alcohol and tobacco use. Typically though, there are three main causal areas in which sleep apnea will occur. Including muscular changes, physical obstructions, and brain function.
Muscular changes are when the tongue and the tissues in the back of the throat get too relaxed during sleep. Causing the individual to either get no air or very little air which is dangerous when there are pauses in breathing entirely. Physical obstructions can include thickened tissue or excessive fat pads within the airway which restrict airflow. In brain function causes, this is from faulty neurological control causing the rhythm and control of breathing to malfunction. Typically this is associated with medical conditions, overuse of pain relief medication, or an ascent to high altitude.
Risk Factors For Untreated Sleep Apnea
For those worried about sleep apnea, there are several risk factors that can be reduced to help avoid the disorder.
Risk factors include:
- Lying on one’s back flat during sleep
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a large neck circumference
- gaining weight
- Having large tonsils or adenoids
- Having a large overbite or a recessed chin
- Having chronic sinusitis
- Family history of sleep apnea
There are several complications and dangers that can stem from having sleep apnea. These include having an increase in heart attacks, strokes, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Having unbalanced heart rhythms or arrhythmias. Also an increased possibility of getting into accidents either from driving when tired or are work-related.
How to Cure Sleep Apnea
Although there are no direct cures for the sleep disorder, there are several long-term options. These can treat the symptoms and reduce how likely it is to affect your life. In terms of lifestyle choices, reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption can help. As can losing weight, and choosing to use a regular sleep schedule and exercise. If the apnea is caused by diabetes or by being overweight, eliminating these can help your sleep apnea to disappear. But this is as close to a cure as there currently is.
For those who want something physical, then there are several devices to choose from.
- CPAP Machine. This uses air pressure to keep the airway open during sleep.
- Sleep Apnea Mask, which also uses air pressure to keep the airways open.
- Oral mouthpieces/mouthguards, reduces snoring that comes with sleep apnea.
- Sleep Apnea Pillow and chin strap. These devices keep your chin closed during the night, keep airflow pressure going through the throat.
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