Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.
The main types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax and central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include loud snoring, episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person, gasping for air during sleep, awakening with a dry mouth, morning headache, difficulty staying asleep (insomnia), excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia), trouble paying attention while awake, and irritability.
It occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, the sidewalls of the throat, and the tongue. When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. You can’t get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.
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You might snort, choke, or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night, impairing your ability to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep.
Sleep apnea is a severe medical condition. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make healthy, restorative sleep impossible, making severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and irritability likely.
You might have difficulty concentrating and find yourself falling asleep at work while watching TV or even when driving. People with sleep apnea have an increased risk of a motor vehicle and workplace accidents. You might also feel quick-tempered, moody, or depressed. Children and adolescents with sleep apnea might perform poorly in school or have behavior problems.
High blood pressure or heart problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system. Having obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Metabolic syndrome. This disorder, which includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, and increased waist circumference, is linked to a higher risk of heart disease.
Complications with medications and surgery. Obstructive sleep apnea is also a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea might be more likely to have complications after major surgery because they’re prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs.
People with sleep apnea are more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to show signs of scarring (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).
If you think you might have sleep apnea, see your doctor. Treatment can ease your symptoms and might help prevent heart problems and other complications.
Until Next Time,
Team Doctor ASKY!