The next time you curse your partner for snoring loudly, have pity on him and advise him to see a sleep specialist immediately as it could be sleep apnea which can result in death even if left untreated. Loud and frequent snoring is one of the prominent symptoms of sleep apnea.
A recently concluded study has shown that there are several cases of people dying due to sudden cardiac arrest during snoring.
Before discussing sleep apnea symptoms and treatments, let us first know what it is exactly.
What is Sleep Apnea?
It is a commonly occurring sleep disorder in which breathing turns shallow or stops completely due to the blockage of the upper airway. The pause in breathing is known as apnea and it lasts for 10 seconds or more. Obstructing sleep apnea is the most common type of apnea in which airflow is hampered due to the relaxation of throat muscles.
What actually happens?
Sleep apnea is a commonly occurring condition in obese males or those who consume too much alcohol. Females post mensuration can also have sleep apnea. At the time of sleeping when tongue and throat muscles relax the soft tissue blocks the airway as the result of which sound is produced.
The disease can have serious life-shortening implications and can lead to high blood pressure, strokes, heart diseases, depression, and diabetes. When breathing stops for longer periods during sleep you are at high risk of cardiac arrest.
Though one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea is snoring it does not mean that everyone who snores is a sufferer. However, if you or your partner snores check out whether the snoring is followed by gasping sounds or it has long or breathing pauses. These are the signs of sleep apnea.
Though obstructive sleep apnea is the most commonly occurring sleep apnea that is known to many and that occurs when throat muscles relax. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain is not able to send signals to the muscles of the body for controlled breathing. The other type that is known as complex sleep apnea syndrome is a condition when the patients have both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.
Though your snoring pattern is the biggest sign of sleep apnea manifestation there are other signs as well that indicate you are suffering. So, ask these questions to yourself.
- Do you remain tired and fatigued or drained out all through the day?
- Do you snore loudly and frequently?
- Do you suffer from daytime drowsiness and do not feel refreshed when you wake up?
- Do you have headaches in the morning and cannot focus?
- Do you suffer from insomnia?
- Do you have a declined sexual desire?
- Do you have irritable behavior?
These are the signs that denote you have sleep apnea. You are likely to suffer from the disease if you are obese. But, people having a slim body can also suffer from sleep apnea.
Under what set of conditions you are at risk?
When you have excessive weight:
Your risk of sleep apnea becomes very high if you are overweight and have a Body Mass Index or BMI of 25 or higher.
- When you have a family history of snoring or OSA
- When you have a smaller lower jaw
- When you have large tonsils or large neck circumference
- When you consume alcohol at bedtime.
- When you have a high level of growth hormones
- When you have low-level levels of thyroid or post-menopause.
If you think you have sleep apnea or showing the symptoms, it is better to see a doctor. You need to record your sleep patterns and patterns throughout the day. If you often have to choke, gasping, or stopping of breath, it is good to consult a sleep specialist immediately. The sleep test is used for diagnosing and helps determine the severity of the disease.
If the disease has no grown serious or chronic then small lifestyle changes can be helpful. So, if you think it is just the beginning stage reducing weight, avoiding alcohol, smoking, etc. helps. Also, sleeping on the sides instead of on backs can result in fewer breathing problems.
One of the most common treatments for sleep apnea is surgery. With the help of surgery extra tissue in the throat which collapses during sleeping and blocks the airway is removed.
Sleep Apnea Treatment:
Treatment for sleep apnea varies and depends on the extent to which victims are affected. Primarily, the treatment is administered either in the form of therapies and surgeries.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP):
This therapy is used only for individuals that have chronic sleep disorder and can be used by those who are troubled for a long time. In this therapy, oxygen or air is delivered through a mask placed over the nose during sleeping. When the air pressure grows greater than that of the surrounding air, air passages get opened.
Adjustable Airway Pressure Devices:
The basic functioning of this type of device is more or less similar to the devices used for CPAP therapy. However, this is a more advanced model. It consists of a special type of air pressure device that adjusts to the oxygen levels and the air pressure when you sleep. This device provides more pressure when you inhale and brings down the pressure when you exhale.
ASV or Adaptive Servo-ventilation:
This airflow device is helpful in treating central sleep apnea. The device understands the breathing patterns of the patient and stores the information in an in-built computer. The machine is used for normalizing breathing and checks any pauses. It is more successful than Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).
Wearing Oral Appliances:
This is one of the most inexpensive ways to check sleep apnea. The oral devices are designed especially for keeping the throat open. These appliances can be used easily. Some of these devices are also designed to bring the jaw forward which in turn helps to prevent sleep apnea and relieve you from snoring.
Surgery is used to remove extra tissues from the throat and nose that cause blockage of the air passage.
A survey conducted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society has shown that the patients taking Ambien (Zolpidem) saw a significant reduction in the symptoms of central sleep apnea and total sleep apnea and its short term use prove to be immensely helpful. If you have just developed the symptoms of sleep apnea and have a difficult time sleeping at night, you can start off with the medicine. But, take care to take the dosage only under a doctor’s prescription and from a certified pharmacy.