Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have deadly consequences.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that results in breathing repeatedly stopping and starting throughout the night. There are three main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form where the throat muscles relax and block the airway.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when there is a miscommunication between the brain and the muscles that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea and occurs when someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
The symptoms of sleep apnea are often hard to notice and often misdiagnosed. The most common signs are:
- Loud snoring
- Cessation of breathing during sleep
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Waking up with an extremely dry mouth
- Morning headache
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Difficulty focusing or paying attention while awake
The most frequent cause of sleep apnea is obesity. In fact, more than two people in five with a body mass index higher than 30, and three in five adults with metabolic syndrome suffer from sleep apnea.
To be properly diagnosed typically requires a trip to a sleep lab for overnight observation. There are at-home sleep apnea tests that can provide your doctor with reliable results that can help them to properly diagnose your symptoms. There are a several home sleep apnea testing devices that have different sensors and equipment. These devices measure your breathing and blood oxygen level. Some also may measure your heart rate or other information about your body.
People suffering from sleep apnea experience micro-awakenings that result in sleep that neither restores the body or the brain. In normal healthy sleep, a person experiences fewer than five micro-awakenings per hour. Mild sleep apnea patients experience 5 to 14 per hour. Moderate sleep apnea sufferers experience 15 to 29 per hour and extreme cases experience 30 or more micro-awakenings per hour.
These micro-awakenings are usually preceded by the person stopping breathing for more than ten seconds at a time and followed by a loud snore as they gasp for air. People suffering from sleep apnea can have their oxygen levels drop to as much as 65% of normal during sleep.
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is a wearable nighttime device called a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.) A CPAP uses a mask that goes over the nose and mouth and provides constant positive pressure when the user breathes in and out. But the easiest solution is to avoid sleeping on your back.
If you think you or someone you love is experiencing any of the above symptoms you should talk to your doctor about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment options. If left untreated, sleep apnea can cause serious complications such as: Daytime fatigue, high blood pressure or heart problems, Type 2 diabetes, complications with medication, liver problems, and even death.