Do you notice that you get the recommended eight hours of sleep per night or more, and you still wake up tired? You may have Sleep Apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that results from breathing disturbances. This occurs when breathing stops momentarily throughout the night. Breathing does not stop only once, but repeatedly. You wake up tired because your body is deprived of oxygen during the night and makes up for it by working harder. Sleep apnea occurs in two separate mechanisms. It leads to more than just tiredness; it may cause serious health concerns. If you are aware of the symptoms, you can get treated before any other health problems develop.
Breathing is necessary for life. The inability to breathe at night has negative effects on your health. The brain and heart are both major organs that require oxygen to function. Unresolved Sleep Apnea can end up causing memory loss and heart disease. There are two types: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by an obstruction that hinders breathing. The muscles in the back of the throat close during sleep, and it keeps air from entering the airways. The closing of the airways becomes a repeated function during the night. Central sleep apnea is a result of a malfunction in the central nervous system. The brain fails to tell the body to continue breathing during sleep. Both instances may cause you stop breathing for a few seconds up to a minute. These repeated breaks in breathing can happen up to 30 times an hour. Sleep apnea is a chronic problem and requires treatment.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form. Over 18 million Americans have Sleep Apnea (National Sleep Foundation). The sad part is most people don’t even know they have the condition. You should be aware of the symptoms. Symptoms include:
- Chronic snoring
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Concentration problems
- Learning and memory problems
Those who are overweight are prone to it as well. Enlarged tonsils or adenoids may also lead to obstructive sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea results in heart disease, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes. These are serious health concerns that can be life-threatening.
Sleep apnea tends to go undiagnosed because it cannot be diagnosed in a normal physical. Neither blood test nor physical examination reveals a sleep apnea condition. Many times a sleeping partner or family member recognizes sleep apnea symptoms. Many people do not get enough sleep or are under a lot of stress, so they ignore the symptoms of sleep apnea. If you or someone else notices some abnormal sleep patterns, it is important to see a physician. They will have you do a sleep study. A sleep study typically requires an overnight stay where your sleep patterns are monitored. They monitor oxygen levels, heart rate, eye movements, and airflow. A sleep study confirms a sleep apnea diagnosis and also shows the severity of the problem.
A continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP machine) is the most common form of treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine has a mask that you place over both your nose and mouth. Air is blown into the airways to keep the throat open throughout the night. A CPAP machine is an extremely effective method of treatment. Treatment may require surgery. If sleep apnea is a result of enlarged tonsils or adenoids, surgical removal of those tissues may resolve your problems. A dentist may have to reposition your jaw to treat sleep apnea. If you have an overbite, moving the bottom jaw forward will create more room in the back of the throat and keep the tongue from obstructing breathing. Sleep apnea may also be treated with lifestyle changes such as losing weight. It is also helpful to quit smoking. Smoking may cause sleep apnea as a result of swelling in the airways.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, do not be afraid to use the CPAP machine. Having a device on your face during the night can cause anxiety, but you will begin to see results right away. You will probably notice right away better concentration during the day and the ability to stay awake. The CPAP machine may look awkward, but no one is going to notice. You do not even have to use the machine during the day; it is strictly for night time use.
Sleep is required for a healthy life. Not sleeping well or not sleeping at all is terrible for your health. Sleep apnea can go unnoticed for years. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, see your doctor right away. There are times that sleep apnea runs in the family. If close relatives have been diagnosed with this condition, and you have the same symptoms as them, request a sleep study. Anytime a partner tells you that you stop breathing in your sleep, or someone notices you snore loudly; you more than likely have sleep apnea. If you are experiencing, some memory loss or excessive daytime sleepiness you should see a physician. You may be one sleep study away from a better night’s sleep.
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