What Exactly Is Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea Is Directly Linked To Snoring
Many people who have sleep apnea do not even realize they have it because they don’t recognize the symptoms. So what is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a sleeping disorder and occurs when the walls of our throat close together whilst we are asleep, causing a blockage off our upper airway.
As a result breathing ceases for varying periods of time. These variations can range from only a few seconds or up to a minute, until such times as the brain finally registers our lack of breathing or the consequential decrease in oxygen levels initiates a wake-up call. The sufferer rouses ever so slightly, enough to open up the upper air passage, gasps and snorts trying to breathe, then immediately drifts back off to sleep.
In the vast majority of cases, you will not even know you are waking up. This repetitive pattern continues hundreds of times a night and causes significant fragmented sleep. As a result you can feel unrefreshed and totally worn out by morning, with overwhelming daytime sleepiness, extremely poor concentration and consequently work performance, combined with unrelenting fatigue.
Medical Authorities estimate about 5% of American suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea and 25% of men over 30 years of age are affected by this sleeping disorder.
How Severe Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The full medical name for this disorder is Obstructive Sleep Apnea or commonly called OSA.
There is an additional rare form of this breathing disorder called Central Sleep Apnea. CSA is normally caused by the disruption of nerve messages relayed between the brain and body.
The severity of sleep apnea is generally measured on how often the persons breathing is interrupted during sleep.
Use this as a guide:
- Normal OSA – no more than 5 interruptions per hour
- Mild OSA – levels of 5 and 15 interruptions per hour
- Moderate OSA – between 15 and 30 interruptions per hour
- Severe OSA – over 30 interruptions per hour.
At its worst, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can kill people.
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
People with severe sleep apnea experience high blood pressure, an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease……and that’s just for starters.
The sleeping disorder is approximately three times more common in men over 30 years of age. It is more common in men than women.
One of the earliest signs of a potential OSA problem is snoring.
Some of the associated symptoms include:
- Periods of snorting, gasping or choking when sleeping
- Daytime fatigue, sleepiness, and tiredness
- Decreased levels of concentration
- Short temper and mood changes
- Reduced sex drive
- Frequent toilet breaks during the night
- Short term memory issues
- Slow metabolism
- Weight gain
- Gastric reflux
- Sore throat
- Dry Mouth
The Sleep Apnea “Cycle” is never ending unless treated
Causes Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep Apnea is caused by a variety of things however the number one issue is weight. Unfortunately weight is one of the things we are confronted with in many instances when it comes to health and well being.
Societies in generally, all around the world, struggle with this problem and it is not going away any time soon despite our best efforts.
These are some of the causes of Sleep Apnea however they are not listed in any particular order:
1. Obesity – is considered by far as the number one cause of OSA however it can also occur in those who are not overweight or obese
2. Large necks – a neck circumference in excess of 43cm for men and 40cm for women
3. Family history – does play a significant role
4. Age – over 65 years increases the risk
5. Facial abnormalities – things like a high,narrow, elongated or soft palate. A small reclining chin and small jaw.
6. Cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption, particularly in the evening as it relaxes our throat muscles and hinders our brain’s reaction to breathing difficulties
7. Medications – generally sedatives or sleeping tablets at night
8. Certain illnesses, like reduced thyroid production or the presence of a very large goitre
9. Large tonsils – more often seen in children
10. Nasal congestion and obstructions in the septum
Dangers Of Sleep Apnea
Recent studies show without contradiction, that the mortality rate (death rate) increases significantly due to the severity of OSA and even Mild OSA can result in a 2.5 times increase over Normal OSA.
I have written two articles summarizing recent studies released in the USA which directly links some major health issues associated with Sleep Apnea and snoring. They are titled Sleep Apnea Is Linked To Cancer and Snoring Linked To Stroke And Heart Disease. [Links to these articles are at the bottom of this page.] These are two of the main health issues associated with OSA, and they couldn’t get much worse could they.
Other dangers or health issues associated with OSA are:
- Sleep Apnea has been short listed as a cause of sudden unexpected death during the night..
- Obesity – metabolic changes occurring in people with OSA make it extremely difficult to reduce weight. Poor motivation due to secondary tiredness. Depression is linked accordingly..
- Diabetes – Insulin resistance occurring in people suffering from diabetes and OSA can often improve if their OSA is correctly treated..
- Insomnia – people suffering from Sleep Apnea often experience repetitive awakenings and as a result this can contribute significantly to insomnia. Many find it difficult to initiate and maintain a good sleep pattern if they suffer from Insomnia..
- Cognitive function and quality of life – continual and prolonged sessions of poor sleeping in Sleep Apnea patients does often lead to depression, lack of motivation, anxiety, concentration and impaired memory plus mood and behavioral changes..
- People suffering with sleep apnea are considered to be four to nine times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident. This is somewhat similar to drink driving..
- Daytime tiredness also has a profound effect on work and study performance plus personal relationships..
- Many of the symptoms of Sleep Apnea become ongoing health issues including headaches, gastric reflux and sexual dis-function.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
These are some of the options open to sufferers of OSA but not necessarily in any order of priority:
Option 1 – One of the most profound and successful treatments for sleep apnea requires a successful change to a persons lifestyle. Of course this means losing weight and reducing the intake of alcohol and cigarettes.
Option 2 – If you have a contributing medical condition, for example, a low production of thyroid hormone, then a correction will help significantly.
Option 3 – Large tonsils, particularly in children, should be corrected.
Option 4 – The most universally accepted treatment for OSA is to wear a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) mask during the night which works to keep the rear of the throat clear/open by forcing air inwards via the nose. Unfortunately many suffers find the mask difficult to use, restrictive and uncomfortable and in many instances seek alternative options.
They work in a variety of ways but mainly to hold the jaw and tongue in a forward position and away from the rear of the throat when sleeping. This effectively opens the air passage and allows a free flow of air. They can certainly be an effective means of treating OSA however it is an individual choice to be made in conjunction with your Medical Practitioner.
Option 6 – Whilst surgery is not always effective, the palate and base of the tongue can be reshaped to open the airways. Some may find this a useful option if all others fail. These particular types of surgeries would be best undertaken by Ear Nose And Throat surgeons, [ENT] who have been specially training in this type of sleep-related surgery.
I have to say I am not a fan of surgery, mainly because there are no guarantees it will work over the long term and I have also seen some pretty ordinary procedures that went wrong.
My Conclusion / Recommendation
If you already suffer from Sleep Apnea then no doubt you are already doing something about it. Hopefully if it is caused by a weight issue then you are combining a treatment option and changing your lifestyle at the same time. 😛
If you think you might have some form of Sleep Apnea but you are undiagnosed then take yourself off to your local GP and start the process. You certainly don’t want to wake up dead one morning. All kidding aside – this is serious stuff.
If you snore, then you should be taking on the responsibility of controlling it. It may not be your fault you snore but it is your responsibility to do something about it and try to stop snoring. There is a good chance others are being effected by your snoring.
If you have any of the above Sleep Apnea symptoms then get yourself off to your local GP and have a chat.