What is Sleep Apnea?
Statistics show that while almost half of adults snore, one in five is affected by sleep apnea. But it often remains a poorly-understood ailment, whose causes, risks, and treatment options may not be obvious, even to people who suffer from it.
Sleep Apnea and Its Causes
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which a person’s breathing is marked by abnormal pauses or abnormally low or “shallow” breathing. The most common type, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA), happens when a person’s airflow is physically blocked by the tongue during sleep.
While loud and recurring snoring is usually a sign of sleep apnea, they are not the same thing. Sleep apnea is distinct from snoring, in that snoring is essentially a vibration caused by obstructions in airflow while sleeping.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Ironically, many individuals with sleep apnea may not even be aware they have it, because it occurs during sleep. The person may not be aware of having any difficulty breathing, but may instead find that they don’t feel well-rested even after a full night’s rest, or they may even fall asleep during normal waking hours. Most often, the sleep apnea is discovered by a person’s sleeping partner, who may be alarmed by the person’s pauses or changes in breathing and snoring.
If you have symptoms such as morning headaches, a dry or sore throat upon waking, daytime tiredness, or high blood pressure, these could all be signs of sleep apnea.
Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause an array of secondary health issues. Sleep apnea increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes, cause arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and more. Beyond the more severe risks, sleep apnea can also cause diminished productivity at work, fatigue, and the possibility of driving or workplace accidents.
Recognizing the Problem
Take a sleep study. Phone the Central California Sleep Center for a take home sleep study. Monitoring these studies can be done in the comfort of your own bed.
Treatment of Sleep Apnea
If your doctor has diagnosed you with moderate or severe sleep apnea, there are many treatment options available.
Lifestyle changes. The least invasive treatment for sleep apnea involves changing some of the common behaviors and traits that cause it. These include weight loss and abstaining from alcohol or sedatives.
CPAP or oral appliances. Those suffering from more severe sleep apnea may benefit from an oral appliance, a CPAP machine, or a combination appliance. The oral appliance is the most comfortable and convenient form of treatment.
Sleep apnea is a real ailment that has real health risks. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, take steps to diagnose and treat the problem before it gets worse.