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What Is Sleep Apnea and How Is it Treated?
A common type of sleeping disorder, sleep apnea can cause a person’s breathing to stop and start throughout the night, resulting in brief awakenings the individual may not remember the following day. This can cause the person to become incredibly fatigued during the daytime, even after sleeping for long periods.
Sleep apnea symptoms, causes and risk factors
Continue reading to learn more about this serious sleep disorder and discover what treatments are frequently used to help people get more restful sleep at night and have enough energy to safely make it through the day.
One of the most common indicators that a person has sleep apnea is hypersomnia, or excessive sleepiness during the day. This can poorly affect the individual’s performance at work or school and can increase the risk of automobile crashes. Other symptoms include:
- Loud snoring
- Morning headaches
- Trouble staying asleep
- Episodes of not breathing at night
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening
- Trouble concentrating
There are three types of sleeping disorders that can cause these symptoms: obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea. The first type is the most common and happens when a person’s airway is blocked by soft tissue when the throat muscles relax. This limits the amount of oxygen that enters the body, signaling the brain to wake up and reopen the airway. Central sleep apnea is much less common and is caused by the brain being unable to send the proper signals to the individual’s breathing muscles. The third type is simply a combination of both of these causes.
All forms of this sleeping disorder are more common among older males. For the most common type, being overweight, having a thicker neck or a narrowed airway can increase the risk of having this disorder. Heavy alcohol use, smoking and nasal congestion can also cause issues. Central sleep apnea is most common in people with certain heart disorders or a history of having strokes. Additionally, long-term use of opioids can increase one’s risk.
If a patient is diagnosed with sleep apnea during a sleep study, the most common form of treatment used is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine. The CPAP works by using a connected mask to constantly let in air through the nose, allowing the airways to remain open. Bi-level Positive Airway Pressure is another treatment similar to CPAP that changes the airflow as the person breathes in and out. In some cases, certain types of surgery can help fix specific problems that cause the sleep disorder. Some people find success combating the condition by losing weight, changing sleep positions or avoiding alcohol and other sedatives.
While sleep apnea is one of the most common types of sleeping disorders that adults are diagnosed with, it can have negative effects on the physical and mental health of people living with the disorder. Among the other issues, feeling sleepy all the time can be dangerous when driving or operating machinery. Fortunately, there are treatments available that can help people get deeper sleep and finally wake up feeling rested.
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According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, approximately 25 million Americans have some form of obstructive sleep apnea, which is a chronic disease that involves frequent pauses in a person's breathing during sleep. Most health warnings about this condition focus on how it can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, but apnea…