Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that causes us to “forget to breathe” during sleep. Our partners are usually the ones who inform us if this disorder occurs.
What is worrying is that every 20 people suffer from sleep apnea – that is as much as 5% of the general population!
Because it occurs during sleep, sleep apnea is one of the most common causes of sudden death during sleep. In the text below, learn more about its symptoms, risk factors, and more.
What Exactly Is Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which you repeatedly stop breathing during sleep. These breathing pauses are caused by the cessation of breathing and marked reduction in airflow through the airways, i.e. nasal obstruction, and it usually lasts between 10 and 20 seconds. It can be repeated 5 to 100 times in an hour. Lack of oxygen during an episode of apnea will startle you and wake you up. This means spending more time in light sleep during the night and less in deep, restorative sleep that should give you energy and productivity the next day.
Types of Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type. It occurs when the muscles that support the soft tissues in the upper respiratory tract relax during sleep and block the normal flow of air from the nose to the mouth. This usually causes loud snoring and interrupted breathing.
Central Sleep Apnea is much rarer and involves the central nervous system. It happens when the brain temporarily ceases delivering instructions to the muscles that regulate breathing. It is often caused by a basic health condition and people who have it rarely snore.
Complex or mixed sleep apnea is a rare form of a combination of the previous two apneas. Specifically, this type of sleep apnea begins as Central Sleep Apnea but develops overnight into Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Recognizing sleep apnea on your own can be very difficult because the most prominent symptoms appear only when you are sleeping, so it is best to ask your partner to follow your sleep rhythm.
The main symptoms are loud snoring, choking, panting during sleep, then drowsiness, and fatigue during the day, no matter how much time you spend in bed. Other symptoms include waking up with dry mouth and sore throat, morning headache, restless sleep, insomnia, waking up due to lack of air, and frequent going to the bathroom during the night.
How to Distinguish Sleep Apnea From Ordinary Snoring?
Not every type of snoring is a sign that you are suffering from apnea. So how to recognize it then?
Usually, snoring does not interfere with the quality of your sleep as is the case with apnea. If you do not suffer from extreme fatigue or drowsiness during the day, it is probably just snoring.
The sound of your snoring also provides clues. If you are short of breath, choking, and have interruptions in breathing, you should suspect apnea.
Snoring disturbs the sleep of not only you but also your partner, so you should schedule an ENT examination and determine the cause of your problem.
Although it can occur at any age, scientific research has proven that it is most pronounced between the ages of 50 and 60, and men are more likely to suffer from it than women.
The risk of developing apnea is much higher in people who are overweight.
Smokers are at a greater risk than non-smokers to develop sleep apnea.
Allergies and other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion can contribute to apnea.
Central apnea is more common in men over 65 years of age. It is very often associated with serious conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and some neurological diseases.
Health Consequences Caused by Sleep Apnea
Chronic sleep deprivation caused by apnea can result in daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, forgetfulness, and an increased risk of making mistakes during daily activities.
Apnea also affects mental health. It can cause mood swings and irritability, as well as anxiety and depression.
It also increases the risk of other serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even stroke.
That is why it is important to check your health and find the cause of the problem. With regular check-ups and cardiac examinations, you can prevent many life-threatening conditions.
We hope you found this article helpful and please keep in mind that this disorder can cause many health problems, in some cases even fatal. So, it is very important that you take the problem seriously and have a medical examination, in order to check your health.