Are you waking in the morning feeling as if you barely rested at all? Does your significant other complain about your constant snoring throughout the night! If you answered yes to these questions, than the issue that’s keeping you up at night could be sleep apnea.
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is defined as, “…a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts.” There are two different sleep apnea classifications:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea
What are the causes of sleep apnea? The causes of sleep apnea can vary a bit, depending on which type of sleep apnea you are diagnosed with. Obstructive sleep apnea typically occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When this happens, airways begin to close making it impossible to breathe properly. This in return lowers the oxygen levels in your blood, which causes the brain to wake you, in an effort to reopen your airways. The brief awakening may cause you to snort, gasp or even choke, and the pattern repeats several times each hour as you sleep.
Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send signals to your breathing muscles. This typically causes shortness of breath upon awakening as well as insomnia. In additional to the inconvenience that sleep apnea causes the sufferer, Central sleep apnea can also lead to heart failure and stroke.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea? While symptoms of sleep apnea can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint and can vary based on the type, here is a list of the most commonly found symptoms:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).
- Loud snoring throughout the night.
- Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep that is witnessed by another person.
- Abrupt awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath.
- Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat.
- Morning headaches.
- Frequent bouts of insomnia.
- Attention problems.
What are the risk factors? While anyone of any age or health can suffer from sleep apnea, there are certain circumstances that do increase your risks. Again, most risk factors are separated by the type of sleep apnea, but here are the most common for each.
Obstructive sleep apnea:
- Being overweight.
- Having a thick neck circumference.
- Having a naturally narrow airway.
- Being male.
- Being over the age of 60.
- Having sleep apnea in your family history.
- Being African American.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers.
- Being a smoker.
- Having frequent nasal congestion.
Central sleep apnea
- Being male.
- Being over 65 years of age.
- Having heart disorders such as atrial fibrillation or congestive heart failure.
- Having a stroke or brain tumor.
If you feel you may be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to see a doctor right away. Your doctor will likely order a sleep study test to observe behaviors and sleep patterns, and to make a proper diagnosis. If you are diagnosed with this disorder, there are several options for treatment. You may choose to try certain therapies such as airway pressure devices, which help to monitor and regulate breathing, or surgery to remove tissue or reposition your jaw.
So remember, if your snoring or insomnia have become more than just an occasional disturbance, it may be time to see your physician. A few simple tests and treatment options could make a huge difference in your life.