Symptoms and Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by periods where you stop breathing during sleep. These periods of apnea (apnea is defined as a cessation of breathing effort) can be short or prolonged. They may happen occasionally or may be frequent. After an apnea episode you normally return to regular breathing again until the next episode. Sleep apnea may be accompanied by loud snoring or snorting sounds. Sleep apnea can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. This can lead to you feeling fatigued and sleepy during the day.
Sleep apneas is usually not detected during a regular exam with your physician. However, as physicians become more aware of the condition many are using screening questions to help identify those at risk. Since it happens while you are sleeping, you probably would not know that you had it unless someone noticed an unusual pattern in your breathing. In fact it’s usually an intimate partner that notices your episodes of not breathing.
Millions of Americans may be suffering from sleep apnea and aren’t even aware of it. The majority of them are overweight or obese. Many have large necks which may be an indicator to your physician for further testing. Men suffer from this condition at a higher rate than women.
Young children that have larger than normal tonsil tissues can also develop sleep apnea.
Types Of Sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea. There is obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type. With obstructive sleep apnea, the tissues in your throat and upper airway collapse while you’re sleeping.
Another type of sleep apnea is called central sleep apnea. Central apnea happens when your breathing muscles do not receive the right signals from your brain. The third is a combination of the two types and is called complex or mixed sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, blocks the air passage in your throat. Some things that happen with obstructive sleep apnea are:
The muscles and tissues in the upper airway relax and fall back blocking the airway.
You will have less oxygen in your blood. This results from the failure to breath. The decreased oxygen in your blood can lead to heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and other health issues.
Heavy loud snoring can be an indicator you have or are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
Even though you may not wake up and remember struggling to breath your brain wakes you up from the deep REM sleep you need.
Sleep physicians use something called the apnea/hypopnea index to classify obstructive sleep apnea. If you experience 5 or more apnea episodes per hour this is diagnostic of obstructive sleep apnea.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea starts in the brain. The brain doesn’t send a signal to the respiratory muscles to breath..
Complex or Mixed Apnea
As mentioned earlier, this is the combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is usually only diagnosed once you have had a sleep study in a sleep laboratory.
Signs And Symptoms
The most obvious sign of sleep apnea may be snoring that is loud and consistent. You may pause while you are snoring. You may also choke or gasp. When you sleep on your back, the snoring may get louder. Since you’re asleep while you’re snoring or gasping, you may not know that you’re having breathing issues. Others will see the signs before you and will let you know if it becomes a pattern. Be aware that just because you may be a chronic snorer, it doesn’t mean that you have sleep apnea. But you should be aware you are higher risk to develop sleep apnea.
There are other signs and symptoms that people may not associate with sleep apnea. They are:
Headaches in the morning
Frequent urination in the evening or night hours
Moody or experiencing a change in your personality
Can’t concentrate, focus or loss of memory
Dry throat in the morning as you wake up
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it’s important to have an honest conversation with your doctor. Most people experience an increase in quality of life once they have their sleep apnea diagnosed and treated.
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