Sleep Apnea: Common Causes
Sleep Apnea is a sleep breathing disorder that is characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. Pauses occur several times per hour and last for over 10 seconds. As the blood-oxygen levels decrease, the brain awakens the individual which often leads to a loud gasp or snort. Sleep apnea is associated with snoring, witnessed pauses in breathing, and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep apnea is usually a chronic condition. Most people have sleep apnea for years before being diagnosed. When breathing appears to stop or becomes shallow, the sleeper comes out of a deep sleep and moves to a light sleep or awakens. This results in poor quality sleep, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness.
How Sleep Apnea Presents
Generally sleep apnea goes undiagnosed for a long time. It can’t be detected during a routine doctor’s appointment, and there’s no blood test to diagnose it. In fact most sufferers don’t even know they have it because it occurs during sleep. Often, it is the bed partner or family member who is suspicious. Usually, the person is referred to a sleep doctor.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type of Sleep Apnea. The airway either becomes blocked or collapses during sleep, resulting in pauses in breathing, or very shallow breathing. The air that manages to squeeze through the blockage can create loud snoring. This is often seen in people who are overweight or obese.
Sleep Apnea can be very serious when untreated because:
- There’s an increased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and diabetes;
- It makes irregular heartbeats, or arrhythmias, much more likely;It increases the risk of heart failure; and
- There’s a greater risk of having a driving incident, or work-related accident.
Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious condition that requires management for the long-term. Treatment can be in the form of breathing devices such as mouthpieces, CPAP mask, and other breathing devices; surgery is also an option in some cases, and there are lifestyle changes that can and should be made.
Sleep Apnea Definition: What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is a serious and possibly life-threatening Sleep Disorder. More than just loud snoring, Sleep Apnea is when the tissue at the back of the throat between the mouth and lungs can briefly collapse and become so restricted that breathing actually stops, momentarily or for frighteningly longer periods. When this happens, the body sensors send a notification to the brain, which awakens and then intervenes to open the airways again. This can happen just a few times, or many times an hour, which means that you rarely get to enjoy the deeper level of restful, recovery style sleep that your body needs to function at optimum capacity.
This form of sleep deprivation can cause symptoms that range from simply feeling sleepy to chronic tiredness. As a result, not only are there significant direct health risks from the Sleep Apnea itself such as stroke or heart failure, but also from injury from accidents due to poor sleep.
Why does the world use the term “disorder” when referring to sleep issues? Well, the definition of “disorder” is “a confused or messy state”. In this case, interruptions to sleep patterns can have multiple overlapping factors that can be medical, psychological or lifestyle driven. So using the term disorder covers a myriad of possible alternatives and options as to why you are not sleeping well.