Everything You Need to Know about Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted while an individual is asleep. These interruptions are frequent and pause your breathing for 10 to 30 seconds until the brain reacts. This common problem, if left untreated, can cause life-threatening health issues. This disorder can hamper your sleep and negatively affect your personal as well as social life.
People suffering from sleep apnea are often not diagnosed properly. As a result, this disorder takes a toll on their physical and emotional health. Here’s everything you need to know about it.
Sleep apnea is derived from the Greek word ‘apnoea’ meaning ‘without breath’. As mentioned earlier, this disorder has breathing frequently stopping and starting during sleep because of an obstruction in the airway. These brief interruptions can occur hundreds of times in a night causing sleep disturbance. People who are overweight, have a large neck, large nostrils, gastroesophageal reflux and other nasal obstructions are at the risk.
It is a common disorder which leads to sleep deprivation, reduction in oxygen level, poor concentration and reduced quality of life. According to a health survey conducted by the Public Health Agency of Canada in 2009, an estimated 858,900 (3%) Canadian adults are diagnosed with sleep apnea.
There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type which occurs when the soft tissue at the back of your throat collapses during sleep and blocks your airway. This type mostly categorizes the physical obstructions that cause blockage such as a large tongue, large tonsils, large uvula, nasal congestion and floppy soft palate. Central sleep apnea is related to the central nervous system that leads to snoring. It occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea is a combination of the obstructive and central sleep apnea.
It is hard to identify the symptoms of sleep apnea because most of the major warning signs occur when you’re asleep. Some of the common symptoms include loud and chronic snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, daytime tiredness, noisy breathing, morning headaches, anxiety, depression, fatigue and waking up with a dry or a sore throat.
Sometimes the symptoms of sleep apnea can be similar to that of sleep deprivation and insomnia because the sufferer is unable to complete his/her sleep due to interruptions in sleep.
The treatment for sleep apnea depends on the severity of the disorder. In the case of milder sleep apnea, doctors suggest lifestyle modifications to normalize breathing such as losing weight, quitting smoking, changing sleep position, and alcohol cessation.
If your sleep apnea is at moderate or severe level, then there are certain devices that help open up the blockage in your airway. These devices include-
- Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a machine that delivers a constant stream of air pressure through a mask placed over your nose and mouth while you’re asleep to keep your airway open. The device comes with adjustable settings and allows you to add moisture to the air being delivered to avoid dry throat.
- Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) is a device similar to CPAP, but it supplies bi-level, i.e., two levels of pressure to the patient. The machine provides a higher pressure when you inhale and a lower pressure when you exhale.
- Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure (EPAP) are single-use devices. They are placed in each nostril before the patient goes to sleep. This machine provides breathing support when the patient is exhaling because it is believed that the airway gets blocked when you’re breathing out.
Apart from the above-mentioned devices, surgery is also an option if these devices fail to benefit the patient. Surgery is usually a solution for patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. This treatment enlarges the airway by removing tissue from the rear of your mouth and top of your throat, by repositioning your jaw or by creating a new air passageway.
Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder that can be an acute health threat if not treated. If you’re experiencing sleep apnea symptoms such as loud snoring, fatigue, noisy breathing and choking during sleep, then consult a doctor for proper diagnosis. You can also consider changing your sleeping position and replacing your old and saggy mattress and pillows with a firm, organic mattress and pillows for proper support while you sleep.