What Is Sleep Apnea?

What Is Sleep Apnea

If you’re constantly plagued by loud snoring and you frequently find yourself tired and sluggish throughout the day, this might not be just a simple case of snoring.  You might have a condition called sleep apnea.  This condition has become more common and is actually considered a health problem.

Sleep apnea happens when the breathing passageways are blocked while you’re asleep or when the brain momentarily fails to function and pauses breathing.  This leads to breaks in your breathing which results in snoring.  It’s more recognizable as sudden quiet or a gasping sound and then audible sounds of gulping for air, and this happens repeatedly while you’re sleeping.

Who are more likely to develop sleep apnea?

Males have a higher tendency to suffer from sleep apnea compared to women.  Those who are obese and overweight are also at risk.  Age is another factor specifically for those who are at least 40 years old.  If you were born with a narrow throat or enlarged tonsils, this could also lead to sleep apnea especially for children.  Another consideration is your family history.  If any of your family members have sleep apnea, you may inherit the condition as well.  Aside from these, any breathing problems involving the nasal airways can make you prone to the condition.

What are the symptoms?

The top indication of sleep apnea is loud, persistent snoring.  There are also gaps of soundlessness in the snores followed by sudden gulps for breath.  It’s important to note that not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.  However, a combination of these next symptoms together with the snoring is likely to be sleep apnea.  You might wake up with headaches, and/ or a dry mouth.  During the day, you may also be prone to memory problems, performance issues at work and chronic sleepiness.

What are the types and causes of each?

Sleep apnea has two main types:  Obstructive and Central.  In obstructive sleep apnea, the tissue in the rear area of the throat loosens while you’re sleeping and obstructs completely or partly the breathing passageways.  The less common form is central sleep apnea, which happens due to an error in the brain.  The brain temporarily neglects to let the body breathe.  This is more likely to happen among people who have had trauma to the brain or suffer from conditions in the cardiac or respiratory system.

What are the possible health risks?

Aside from affecting performance and daily activities, if sleep apnea is not treated, it may progress or contribute to worse health issues.  Some patients with sleep apnea are likely to have hypertension and heart problems.  A number of them also have a tendency for diabetes as well as depression.

What home care methods can you try?

For mild to moderate sleep apnea, you may adopt some modifications to your lifestyle to help you cope.  Change your diet and exercise more in order to lose the excess pounds.  Aim for a healthier lifestyle by limiting your smoking and alcohol intake.  Your sleep quality will also greatly improve with a different sleeping position.  Sleeping on your side, for example, is better than sleeping on your back.

What are the treatment options?

In moderate to severe cases, different forms of therapy may be needed.  Machines or devices such as the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) may be recommended by your doctor.  If all the other treatment methods and lifestyle changes are not effective, surgery is the last option.