How sleep apnea occurs, what it affects, and whom it affects will be covered in this article. Read on to gain a better understand of a disorder that millions of Americans suffer from, without knowing it.
Sleep apnea is defined by a repeated cessation of breathing that occurs during sleep. An apnea, or pause in breath, can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes in length, and happens at least 5 times per hour by definition. The apnea occurs because the pharynx (upper airway) becomes obstructed, which prevents the air (oxygen) from entering the lungs. When an apnea occurs, the body increases blood pressure and heart rate to wake the person experiencing the apnea just enough to start breathing again and clear the airway. The person may not wake up long enough to register the momentary disruption in their sleep. However, the repetitive drops in blood oxygen and the resulting sleep deprivation is associated with a host of medical problems. Pictured left: normal pharynx. Pictured right: Collapsed airway during sleep.
Sleep apnea occurs for a multitude of reasons; including the relaxing influence of sleep and the gravitational effects of the supine (back sleeping) position. Individuals with thick trunks or necks, excessive weight, and older males, also have an increased risk of suffering from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is an elusive disorder for one simple reason: apneas happen during sleep. This makes the problem less obvious to those who suffer from it, and more difficult to diagnose. Sleep apnea does however have some tell-tale symptoms that can clue you that you have or may have the disease. Mainly, snoring and frequent daytime sleepiness are strong signs that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, and should undergo a sleep study. Other effects of sleep apnea are behavioral changes, such as; moodiness, depression, belligerence, decreased attentiveness and ambition. Other effects are slowed reaction time and vision problems.
Sleep apnea can be observed by bed-partners sleep partners or by its effects on the person suffering from sleep apnea. Gone untreated, sleep apnea can lead to health complications including diabetes, heart conditions, stroke, and more.
If your bed-partner snores, momentarily stops breathing during sleep and then abruptly starts again, or if you snore, feel tired and less ambitious and don’t know why, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Get a sleep test. Find out which kind of sleep test to get here: Home Sleep Test versus In-Lab Sleep Study. If you have sleep apnea, get it treated and get better quality sleep while living a healthier, happier life.
If you aren’t quite ready to submit to an at Home Sleep Test or In-Lab Sleep Study, then perhaps you should look into a sleep monitoring application for your phone, like MotionX 24/7. And make sure you let us know how it worked for you on our facebook page!