Sleep apnea is the temporary interruption in breathing that sometime’s occurs when a person is sleeping, often hundreds of times per night. Over 18 million Americans are affected by sleep apnea, and many people who have the problem are unaware that that they stop breathing in their sleep.
Undiagnosed sleep apnea has a wide-ranging number of side effects, including headaches, diabetes, enlarged heart, heart attack, irregular heart beats, stroke, depression, and more. Research shows that as many as 95% of cases of sleep apnea fail to be diagnosed. Many times it is a person’s spouse or bed mate who first recognizes the problem. Many of the sufferers of sleep apnea slumber so deeply that they are unaware that their breathing ceases.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
The symptoms of sleep apnea that frequently accompany the cessation of breathing include:
This is often how a bed partner is able to diagnose sleep apnea, for both a person’s snoring and his breathing will stop, usually for at least 10 seconds, although cessations as long as a minute are not uncommon.
Everyone has an occasional day when they feel tired and/or sleepy, but people with undiagnosed sleep apnea commonly complain of daytime sleepiness.
Headaches are often accompanied by a “foggy” feeling throughout the day, as well as difficulty concentrating.
Frequent dry mouth and/or sore throat upon awakening in the morning. This can be due to factors such as over-indulgence in alcohol, but if it is a continuous factor of your sleep experience, you should have it checked.
Irritability and/or forgetfulness
This will often result in your family, friends and colleagues, commenting on you snapping at them and being unusually intolerant and impatient. Take these warnings seriously when they come from people who know you well, and often love and respect you.
Profuse sweating during sleep
Profuse sweating at night can sometimes be due to other factors such as late night eating, obesity and generally poor health, but Sleep Apnoea (apnea) is also one definite cause. I personally hate it when my pillows are left soaked and stained by this symptom. Even if this is not caused by sleep apnea, you should have your symptoms checked by a doctor – something’s not right!
Depression and a general sense of isolation and irritability can sometimes be one of the key indicators of inadequate sleep and poor quality of sleep. It can be caused by loss of sleep, but it is also one of the risks of many types of sleeping pills.
When choosing remedies for insomnia of any type you must be aware of the risks which are many, because many sleeping pills contain extremely powerful chemicals. My preference is always for a natural sleep aid called melatonin.
Choking and Loss of Breath
Sudden awakening during the night either gasping for breath or feeling as if one is choking is a powerful indication of this malady. Take this particularly seriously and see a qualified medical practitioner.
Children and Sleep Apnea
Children who suffer from sleep apnea exhibit these additional symptoms:
- Learning and/or behavioral disorders.
- Profuse night sweats.
- Daytime difficulty in swallowing and/or breathing through the mouth.
- Sleepiness or inattention in class, often misinterpreted by teachers.
- Poor grades.
- Strange sleeping positions, as with the neck extended, or on hands/knees.
Other Things You Should Know About Sleep Apnea
Two Distinct Types
There are two distinct types of sleep apnea: obstructive, and central. A third category is known as mixed, and is essentially a blend of the two primary types. The vast majority of affected individuals suffer from the obstructive variety.
Obesity and Simply Being Male are Prime Causes
Overweight people are predisposed to sleep apnea, and statistically, so are men. As many as 25% of all men suffer from sleep apnea, but only 10% of women, which together statistically represent a significant portion of the population.
African and Hispanic People at Particular Risk
People of African and Hispanic heritage are disproportionately affected. A person of any age can experience sleep apnea, including infants. However, those who are overweight, who have a larger than normal neck circumference, a narrowed airway or who take pharmaceutical aids to help them sleep at night are especially at risk.
Sufferers of obstructive apnea experience an airway blockage. Typically, the soft tissue at the back of their throats collapses when they relax in sleep at night. Sometimes their airway is unusually narrow, and/or their tonsils especially large. Those who have central sleep apnea will likely be victims of some sort of dysfunction of the central nervous system.
Examples of this include stroke victims, or people who have heart and/or pulmonary disease. Far more people suffer from obstructive sleep apnea than from the central variety.
Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea
Undiagnosed or left untreated, sleep apnea leads to serious consequences such as congestive heart failure, heart attacks, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, diabetes, etc. Daytime sleepiness is responsible for untold numbers of automobile and work related accidents, difficulty in performing job related tasks and underachievement in school.
Because so many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed, the disorder represents a real threat to the portion of the population that is unaffected simple through the potential for automobile and work related accidents/incidents.
Don’t Assume You Have Sleep Apnea
Insomnia has many possible causes, of which sleep apnea is only one. So make sure you see a medical professional for diagnosis if you any combination of the symptoms listed here. It may be that you are simply exhausted because you snore your way through the night, or pne of many other reasons – there are some articles on this page dealing with many such issues.
Sleep Apnea Treatment Options
Perhaps the most common remedy for those with identified sleep apnea is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. This is respiration machine that assists the wearer in breathing continuously throughout the night, even while asleep.
It consists of a sleep apnea mask, which come in both full face and nasal profiles, a small machine that supplies a continuous supply of air, and also a hose that connects the mask to the machine.
Many people find the CPAP machine difficult to get used to, and opt instead, for a sleep apnea mouth guard, which is one of a couple of available dental devices that function to maintain an open airway. Despite this, many people believe that a mask of any sort is not needed
Standard bed pillows are often guilty of pushing the mask away from a person’s mouth. Special pillows are available for purchase that prevent this from happening by providing the means to accommodate the CPAP’s hose. Yet another option is to use what is called a “snoring pillow” which is a specially designed, inclined pillow that helps keep a person’s throat open as they sleep.
Studies have shown that this special pillow is indeed effective in cases involving mild and/or moderate sleep apnea.
Note: The above article is for informational purposes only. Specific product reviews will follow shortly.