Although sleep apnea is a serious and very common disorder, it’s also one that can be treated when properly diagnosed.
Sleep apnea can affect both adults and children. It is caused when tissue surrounding the respiratory passage relaxes while a person is asleep, which in turn blocks the airway and inhibits breathing.
Snoring loudly is often a sign of sleep apnea. Breathing may stop and start repeatedly during sleep. Once diagnosed sleep apnea is highly treatable, which is why it is important to learn how to tell the differences between normal snoring and sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea can cause shallowness of breath as well as intermittent cessation of breathing. Typically during the night breathing will stop for 10 to 20 seconds at a time and may occur hundreds of times. Each instance can jolt the sleeper out of natural sleep patterns. As a result, most of the night is spent in light sleep, which results I waking up tired.
Several different types of sleep apnea can be identified, as follows:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea– This is considered the most common form of sleep apnea. It is caused by the soft tissues in the back of the throat relaxing and causing the airway to become blocked. It also causes you to snore loudly.
- Central Sleep Apnea – This form of sleep apnea happens when the brain fails to communicate with the muscles that control breathing. Central Sleep Apnea involves the central nervous system and usually there’s no snoring.
- Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome – This is a relatively mild form of sleep-breathing disorder. It is caused by partial resistance to breathing, whereby the airway passage does not completely collapse; blood oxygen levels are not affected, but it can impact health negatively.
A mixed form of sleep apnea, including a combination of the obstructive and central types, is also possible—especially among people addicted to narcotics—and it can be quite dangerous.
For all types of sleep apnea, some symptoms to be aware of include the following:
- Snoring loudly
- Chronic snoring
- Gasping in your sleep
- Long pauses in breathing
- Sleepiness during the day
- Waking with a dry mouth
- Morning headache
- Insomnia or waking during the night
- Restless sleep
Sometimes sleep apnea can be treated by making changes at home, such as losing weight, avoiding sleeping pills, avoiding alcohol or quitting smoking. Sleeping on your side, propping your head up, and even opening your nasal passages using breathing strips can help to prevent sleep apnea. Many times these are combined with doctor prescribed treatments.
By far the most common treatment for moderate to severe cases is CPAP, “Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure,” which provides a continuous supply of air via a machine pump through a fitted hose and mask during periods of sleep.
Although it may take time to become comfortable with the equipment, those who use CPAP usually enjoy immediate results and awake the following morning feeling rested, energetic and mentally alert. In recent years, CPAP options have improved significantly.
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