The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Do you ever awaken during the night to find yourself feeling like you’re choking or having a hard time breathing? No, it probably wasn’t a nightmare, and it’s most likely a condition that needs to be looked into. With these symptoms it’s very possible that you have Sleep Apnea which can be a severe sleep disorder.

Other symptoms to look for include snoring that’s so persistent it wakes your partner, morning headaches, and dry mouth. If these symptoms apply to you, you need to see a doctor right away. They are all indications that you might be a victim of Sleep Apnea.

You’ve undoubtedly heard about people having sleep disorders, and Sleep Apnea can be one of the most severe on the list. “Apnea” comes from the Greek and means “want of breath”. During an Apnea episode, your breathing is disrupted by either slowing down or stopping altogether for a short period of time. These disruptions can occur as often as 20 times in only one hour, and each episode can mean a 20 second period during which your body is near death.

Sleep Apnea is a dangerous condition that not only destroys your sleep but also affects your entire body. There are three different types of sleep apnea, and in their worst stages, all three of them can be deadly.

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The Widespread Problem of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The condition known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type. During sleep, the muscles in your soft palate, which are located around the base of your tongue, relax and obstruct your airway. When this happens, the oxygen level in your blood decreases causing hypoxia, your blood pressure goes up, and a great deal of stress is placed on your heart. All of these difficulties keep you from going into the deeper, sounder phases of the sleep cycle which means your body starts suffering from sleep deprivation. To add to the problem, you will experience snoring and choking which can awaken you several times a night. Your body becomes desperate for sleep.

Rare but Lethal Central Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea is a much rarer condition that Obstructive Apnea, because it’s caused by a flaw in the brain. In this condition your brain gives the wrong or delayed messages to your body’s breathing mechanisms. Because of these faulty signals, throat, abdominal and oral breathing all stop at the same time for a few seconds. Even though it doesn’t last long, it can still lower the amount of oxygen that gets to your blood and tissues and can lead to high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, and heart stroke.

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Dual Causes of Mixed Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from both of the conditions described above, Obstructive Apnea and Central Apnea, you are said to have Mixed Sleep Apnea. In this condition you have the combined symptoms of relaxed throat muscles and flawed breathing signals from your brain, and the combination can obviously be much more detrimental to your health.

Since Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form of apnea that people suffer from, it’s a good idea for everyone to know exactly what symptoms to look for as well as what causes the condition and how it can be treated in case you, or someone in your family, develop the problem.

What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are a number of different factors that can obstruct your airway while you’re sleeping and bring on episodes of Obstructive Apnea. You might have muscles in your tongue and throat that shrink too much when your body relaxes in sleep allowing them to block the function of your airway. In addition, if you are overweight, your airway can be obstructed by the soft tissue in your throat becoming larger and stiffer. If your adenoids or tonsils become enlarged, that, too, can disrupt your airflow.

What are the Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Waking because you’re choking and having problems breathing and snoring are very common symptoms of Obstructive Apnea. Being very sleepy during daytime hours can also be a sign that your sleep is being disrupted. With this form of of the condition you can lose the ability to concentrate, suffer from dry mouth, wake with headaches, experience a rapid weight gain, or have lethargy, high blood pressure, and possibly depression.

What Treatment is Available for Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are things that you can do to prevent or halt the progression of Obstructive Apnea even if you haven’t yet seen a doctor about the condition. The solution to the problem might be as easy as losing weight, changing your sleep position, or eliminating alcohol from your evening routine. In more severe cases, medical treatments may be needed, however. Some of the more common medical procedures used to treat apnea include Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), Oxygen Administration, and surgeries such as a tracheostomy.

If you have reason to believe that you might have sleep apnea and are exhibiting the symptoms outlined above, never put off going to a doctor thinking you can treat the problem yourself. A visit to your doctor will confirm the condition and its causes so that you can follow the right mode of treatment for a speedy recovery.

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