Sleep Apnea 101: What Everyone Should Know

There’s snoring, there’s bad snoring, and then there’s sleep apnea. You don’t want to stop on any rung of the snoring ladder if you can avoid it, but sleep apnea — at the top of the ladder, or the bottom, depending on how you characterize “bad” — is definitely the one rung to be avoided and, if you land on that rung, is a signal that your condition must be dealt with and gotten under control quickly.

The snoring sound in sleep apnea occurs when the person at sleep gasps for breath after
his or her breathing has paused for several seconds (sometimes even minutes).

Which unfortunately happens a lot for those suffering from sleep apnea, 30 or more
times an hour in many cases. The sleep of such sufferers is constantly interrupted by
pauses in their breathing, which then results in the snoring/gasping sound. As a
result, a person with sleep apnea almost never gets a good night’s sleep, and the next
day he or she pays for it by being overly tired and out of physical sorts all day.

Sleep apnea is often associated with people who are overweight, as is snoring in
general, but it can affect anyone. For example, small children with enlarged tonsils
may develop obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea refers to a condition arising from obstructions in the airway,
which consists of the nose, mouth, throat and windpipe. In contrast, central sleep
apnea, which doesn’t result in a snoring sound, is caused by the brain’s not sending
the correct signals to your breathing muscles, thus resulting in lapses in breathing.
Though the snoring may be absent in central sleep apnea, the loss of quality sleep can
be just as severe.

Sleep apnea of either variety is a serious condition that needs attention since
untreated sleep apnea can result in:

  • An increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity and diabetes (obesity’s first cousin)
  • A hightened risk of heart failure
  • An increased likelihood of arrhythmias, or irregular heart beats — one of the leading causes of heart attacks
  • Elevated chances of work-related or driving accidents

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that requires long-term management, including life-
style changes, mouthpieces, surgery and/or breathing devices. The last, known as CPAC,
or continuous positive airway pressure, ensures full breathing by funneling air through
a mask connected to an air-pressure machine.

How do you know if you have sleep apnea? Here are signs to look for:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness, or hypersomnia
  • Loud snoring
  • Episodes of breathing cessation during sleep that is witnessed by another
  • Abrupt nighttime awakenings accompanied by shortness of breath
  • Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • Having a routine morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep, or insomnia
  • Problems focusing and paying attention

If you have one or more of these symptoms, you need to see a professional, such as the
ones found at the Snoring Center. You’ll no doubt then undergo a sleep evaluation,
whether at home or at a sleep evaluation center (often depending on what your insurance
will pay for). From there, the best solution for you can be individualized, but for your
own sake, you need to deal with your sleep apnea, or sleeping/snoring problem, in the
most expeditious manner to maintain your overall health and full functioning in the
daylight hours.

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