What is Sleep Apnea?

You may be wondering what is Sleep Apnea and why does it cause a health concern.

In this blog we aim to explain what Sleep Apnea is, the main symptons and what health concerns it can cause.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder. The main symptoms of Sleep Apnea are when breathing repeatedly stops and starts whilst asleep. If you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night’s sleep, you might have sleep apnea.

The main two types of sleep apnea are:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax
  • Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing

The main Symptoms of Sleep Apnea are:

The signs and symptoms of Obstructive and Central Sleep Apneas can be similar, sometimes making it difficult to determine which type you have. The most common signs and symptoms of both forms of 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)
  • Difficulty paying attention while awake
  • Irritability

What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. As you can’t get enough air, the oxygen level in your blood lowers. Your brain senses you cannot breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway.

What causes Central sleep apnea

This less common form of sleep apnea occurs when your brain does not transmit signals to your breathing muscles. This means that you make no effort to breathe for a short period. You might awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep.

Who could be at Risk from Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. But certain factors can increase your risk.

Obstructive sleep apnea

Factors that increase the risk of this form of sleep apnea include:

  • Excess weight. Obesity greatly increases the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Neck circumference. People with thicker necks might have narrower airways.
  • A narrowed airway. You might have inherited a narrow throat. Tonsils or adenoids also can enlarge and block the airway, particularly in children.
  • Being male. Men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than are women.
  • Being older. Sleep apnea occurs significantly more often in older adults.
  • Family history. Having family members with sleep apnea might increase your risk.
  • Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat, which can worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Smoking. Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who’ve never smoked.
  • Nasal congestion. If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether from an anatomical problem or allergies — you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea

Risk factors for this form of sleep apnea include:

  • Being older. Middle-aged and older people have a higher risk of central sleep apnea.
  • Being male. Central sleep apnea is more common in men than it is in women.
  • Heart disorders. Having congestive heart failure increases the risk.
  • Using narcotic pain medications. Opioid medications, especially long-acting ones such as methadone, increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
  • Stroke. Having had a stroke increases your risk of central sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.

Some of the Complications caused by Sleep Apnea are:

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition. Complications can include:

  • Daytime fatigue. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible. This can lead to severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability.
  • High blood pressure or heart problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and can strain the cardiovascular system. Having obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).

Obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke and abnormal heartbeats, such as atrial fibrillation.

Type 2 diabetes. Having sleep apnea increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

  • Metabolic syndrome. This disorder, which includes high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood sugar and an 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.
  • Liver problems. 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).
  • Sleep-deprived partners. Loud snoring can keep anyone who sleeps near you awake. It’s not uncommon for a partner to have to go to another room, or even to another floor of the house, to be able to sleep!

If you think you may have Sleep Apnea we would advise going to see your Doctor as early as possible for an assessment and treatment.

At Your Comfort Healthcare we take Sleep Apnea very seriously. That is why we are proud to retail our Sleep Apnea pillow which make sleeping more comfortable for those who have to use a CPAP machine during the night to sleep.

Our Sleep Apnea pillow has two cut out’s at the side of the pillow which reduce CPAP mask pressure on the face whilst sleeping allowing clients to sleep in more comfort and wake up feeling refreshed!

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