Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that impairs the normal sleep cycle by causing a person to stop breathing several times throughout the night. During these apnea events the oxygen saturation numbers also fall causing a lack of oxygen to the brain and thus the rest of the body and organs. The lack of oxygen throughout the night, and during every nap, adds up over time. Untreated sleep apnea puts people at a higher risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, dementia and other illnesses.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea affecting men more than women as well as overweight individuals. Sleep apnea carries a stigma that it is an illness of obesity, however it only affects approximately 20% of those who are overweight. People of average weight also have sleep apnea because the key to this type of apnea is obstruction. For example, some people do not have strong enough muscles or have smaller airways so when they lay down to sleep gravity closes the airway. Common sleep apnea symptoms include the following:
Snoring is often a sleep apnea symptom, but not always. Sleep apnea snoring differs from the average person’s snoring. A person with sleep apnea snores very loud and many times are heard through the walls. Other people tend to know when someone else has untreated sleep apnea due to the sound of the snoring.
2. Choking or gasping
Sleep apnea causes a choking or gasping feeling that is usually related to a snore. The person briefly stops breathing but because the human body’s reflexes will do everything to keep people from dying in their sleep, the brain will rouse the person enough to wake them so they breathe. This breath is typically a choking, gasping, snorting sound as the person rapidly takes the breath to keep them living.
Quantity not quality sleep that leaves a person with fatigue, headaches, and a general feeling of tiredness. Other symptoms include dry mouth from sleeping with the mouth open.
4. Treatments for sleep apnea
Sleep apnea treatment depends on a proper medical diagnosis and the severity of episodes throughout the night. Moderate to severe sleep apnea requires treatment with a CPAP (constant positive airway pressure) machine. The CPAP keeps the airways open with air pressure. Although some people find these machines an inconvenience, they are truly life saving and for the betterment of overall health.
Oftentimes, people who have yet to get diagnosed have tried over-the-counter remedies to treat their snoring. These include nasal strips to open the nasal passages or oral devices that go inside the mouth like a mouth guard. Although an oral device looks like a mouth guard they need special modifications by a dentist in order to properly fit into the mouth without discomfort.
People of all shapes and sizes should get checked for sleep apnea if there is any doubt. The health benefits are worth it.