Obstructive Sleep Apnea | An Explanation

Have you ever heard someone who snores, gasps, then jolts out of sleep?

That someone may just be suffering from a serious sleep problem called Sleep Apnea, considered to have plagued about 18 million of Americans.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Apnea comes from the Greek word, “apno” meaning “breathless”.

Sleep Apnea, therefore, is a condition when a person typically experiences pauses due to shortness of breath during sleep.

The disorder is categorized into two types:

  1. Obstructive, occurring when tissue located behind the throat, obstructs the airway.
  2. Central, occurring when the brain fails to send signal to the muscles that control breathing.

A combination can also exist, but rarely so.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Although snoring is common, it doesn’t always indicate the presence of sleep apnea.

Major signs and symptoms include loud snores, chokes or gasps, breath pauses, sudden awakening, daytime fatigue and drowsiness (despite enough sleep), poor concentration, and low energy.

If you or a loved one have any of the above symptoms – diagnosis should be made by a doctor.

Who Suffers from Sleep Apnea?

Anyone can be affected by sleep apnea, regardless what age, sex or race. In saying that, the medical field have found risk factors such weight, lifestyle, and physiological characteristics. If you’re male, over age 50, has thick neck, backward chin, or enlarged tonsils, you’re more likely to develop the disorder.

A Wisconsin Sleep Study also found correlates such as hypertension, stroke and depression, evidence that unhealthy lifestyle factors in.

In the same study, they reported a 3x increase in death rate resulting from the said sleep disorder among participants was reported. The alarming rate should encourage everyone to get educated with sleep apnea cures.

Sleep Apnea Treatments

Treatments vary from natural remedies to medical intervention. Losing weight, exercising regularly, avoiding nicotine and alcohol, developing a sleep routine, and sleeping on side are among the recommended natural remedies for sleep apnea.

Treating the underlying illness, such as heart or neuro-muscular disorder, also helps. Medicine only reduces the sleepiness, and does not cure the disorder itself.

There are new sleep apnea devices available for treating patients now. Among the most effective is the Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) device. It’s a machine akin to a mask that covers both the mouth and nose, supplying a steady stream of oxygen into the system and keeping the pathways open.

The newest innovation, Provent, does the same work but uses a smaller device that is inserted into the nostrils.

It’s best to get yourself checked early, as sleep apnea is considered to be one of the most under diagnosed disorders, but equally fatal.

The severity of the disorder is gauged based on number of pauses in an hour. The higher the halts, the more severe. A person may also perform a sleep apnea self-test either by asking your bed partner to observe you and keep a sleep journal, or by recording your sleep behavior with a camera.
Although diagnosis and treatment may be done personally, it’s still recommended to seek a physician, a sleep expert particularly. As mentioned, sleep apnea can be tricky hiding behind mild snores.

Early detection is key.