Sleep apnea (sleep disordered breathing) is a sleep disorder that is a serious medical condition, and it is when your breathing pauses or stops during sleep. It is estimated that 4% of the population suffer from this sleeping disorder.
Each event is called hypopnea and it can last from mere seconds to minutes and can happen up to 30 times and hour. There are three types of sleep apnea, central, obstructive or a combination of the two.
Central sleep apnea happens when the brain’s control over the respiratory system becomes imbalanced during sleep. Carbon dioxide builds up in the blood and the body cannot react quickly enough to keep an even respiratory rate.
Simply, the brain doesn’t tell the body to breathe. If unchecked it can cause brain damage or death depending on how severe the condition is.
Obstructive sleep apnea risks will rise if you start to gain weight, smoke and with age or diabetes, and patients with diabetes or are borderline diabetic are three times the risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
A mixture of the two or combination is called complex sleep apnea. This can develop especially when obstructive sleep apnea has gone on for long periods of time and it has been severe.
Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by having a sleep study done called a polysomnogram. This disease can have serious side effects if left untreated, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression and fatigue. It has even been linked to automobile accidents as patients fell asleep at the wheel while driving. Men, mostly of African-American and Hispanic decent are more likely to have sleep apnea than women.
Common symptoms include loud snoring, obesity, fatigue, and waking up out of breath during sleeping hours. Waking with a headache or dry mouth are other symptoms. According to the National Sleep Foundation this disease affects 18 million Americans and risk factors are usually being overweight, male, and over 40 years of age. At the same time the American College of Physicians notes that 80 to 90 percent of cases go undiagnosed. Sleep apnea can also affect memory, cause weight gain, headaches, and impotence in men.
Many people start treatment by avoiding alcohol, sleeping pills or anything else that will relax the throat muscles, and sleeping on their sides. Medications such as Acetazolamide or low doses of oxygen but the side effects may not be right for you. Oral appliances are also available.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, see your doctor. It is a serious medical condition that can lead to other health problems.
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