What Is Sleep Apnea?


One of the most common sleep disorders plaguing Americans today is sleep apnea. This condition causes a person to stop and start breathing repeatedly during sleep. You may have sleep apnea and not know it, even though you feel the symptoms. Bed partners are often aware of their partner’s condition due to snoring and arrhythmic breathing.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are different types of this condition. The main disorders of this category are:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – This is the most common type of sleep apnea and it occurs when the muscles in the throat and back of the mouth become extremely relaxed. The airway becomes blocked or obstructed, and you stop breathing until your brain signals you to wake up and start breathing again.

Central sleep apnea – Less common than OSA, in this situation, the muscles that control your breathing are not getting the proper signals from the brain.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome – These unfortunate individuals suffer from both OSA and central sleep apnea at the same time. It is also called treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.

The good news is that your sleep apnea can be successfully treated so you can finally get a restful night’s sleep.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Are you waking up feeling lethargic and unrested? This could be a sign of sleep apnea. Other signs include:

  • Gasping for air while you sleep
  • Dry mouth when you wake up
  • Insomnia
  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of concentration
  • If your partner complains that you stop breathing while asleep, you probably have some form of sleep apnea and should be examined. While loud snoring can indicate a problem, maybe a serious problem, not every case of sleep apnea involves snoring. If you experience the symptoms above or are constantly waking up feeling tired, grouchy and sleepy, you should talk to your doctor.

    Are You at Risk?

    There are certain factors that increase the risk of sleep apnea. Obesity is one of the main factors. If you have fat deposits around your upper airway, your breathing can be obstructed when you sleep. People with thicker necks are more likely to have narrower airways. Some individuals inherited a narrowed airway and some families have a history of sleep apnea.

    Your age and gender can put you at risk as well. Men are more likely to have sleep apnea, but women should be aware that excess weight and being postmenopausal can also raise your risk. Older adults are more prone to have OSA than younger individuals.

    Smokers may not realize that they can be as much as three times more likely to have OSA. This is due to the increased amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.

    Since relaxed muscles can cause OSA, substances that relax muscles, such as sedatives, tranquilizers or alcohol, can make the condition worse. Similarly, narcotic pain medications like opioids can raise the risk for central sleep apnea. Heart disorders and stroke can also increase the risk for central sleep apnea.

    Sleep Apnea Is A Serious Medical Condition

    People may joke about how snoring and arrhythmic breathing may be annoying to your partner; however, this condition can cause serious complications. In addition to daytime fatigue, you could develop high blood pressure or heart problems. Sleep apnea can lead to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease has also been associated with sleep apnea.

    Those health conditions are serious enough to have your symptoms checked. If you are still not convinced, think of your partner. Sleep-deprived partners are not happy people.

    Contact Dr. Nishan Halim and schedule an appointment for more information on treatment for sleep apnea.

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