You’ve had a long day. Exhausted and drained, you fall into a deep sleep, only to be constantly nudged by your partner to stop snoring. Or perhaps you have a sinus infection that is preventing you from breathing comfortably and you sound like you’re grinding an ax. To be sure, snoring is annoying to your partner and family; it can also be embarrassing if you fall asleep in a movie theater or meeting at work. But what if your snoring is more serious than you think? Sleep apnea is a very serious condition that can not only leave you – and your loved ones – sleep deprived; it also can lead to an increased risk of health problems ranging from high blood pressure and stroke to heart failure, irregular heartbeat, and heart attacks. Here is what you need to know about sleep apnea; what it is and how best to prevent it.
Kinds of Apnea
Too often, unless they are referred to a sleep study, most people have no idea they have apnea. Usually the first person who recognizes there may be an apnea problem is the partner who is privy to the constant choking, snorting, and gasping sounds that are signs of the condition. There are in fact, three primary types of sleep apnea: Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Central Sleep Apnea, and Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome, which is a combination of the two. All three exhibit similar symptoms, to include pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing, both of which may vary in duration from a few seconds to several minutes. Often a choking or similar snorting sound marks the resumption of normal breathing patterns.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). Being overweight, having enlarged tonsils or a smaller than normal airway, and/or allergies can all contribute to this condition. Someone who suffers from OSA may exhibit impaired alertness, excessive daytime drowsiness and weakened vision. Treatment for OSA often starts with behavioral therapies to perhaps lose weight, change sleeping position, create a comfortable sleep atmosphere, or avoid alcohol before bed. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP machine) may be recommended to help you breathe easy at night. If these are unsuccessful and the obstruction is severe, surgical intervention may be sought as a last resort to correct nasal and air passageway obstructions, remove enlarged tonsils, or allow for bariatric weight loss.
Central Sleep Apnea
Rarer than OSA, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) occurs when the neurological autonomic controls for breathing simply forget to tell the body to breathe, allowing waste gasses to build up and oxygenation levels to fall, resulting in the body’s need to replenish with fresh oxygen. Normally the desire for a fresh lungful of oxygen would take center stage, like coming up for air after swimming a lap. CSA fails to tell the body this, allowing the brain’s oxygen levels to remain depleted and with higher levels of waste gasses that remain as long as the body forgets to breathe. When the body finally remembers to breathe, it doesn’t take in a refreshing breath of air, but rather, the normal breathing pattern resumes, resulting in that blood-curdling gasp. Those who suffer from CSA are at a severe health risk and are in grave danger of suffocating in their sleep.
Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Some people have a combination of both OSA and CSA. When the obstruction is removed or repaired, the CSA may remain. As such, it takes treatment of one to reveal and then treat the other. Many people can benefit from a medical sleep study to detect the presence and type of apnea affecting patients.
If Sleep Apnea Affects You
You may have sleep apnea and never realize it. However, your partner will definitely know and tell you. The best way to know for sure is to undergo a sleep study to diagnose and verify the nature of your apnea, the cause and possible treatment. If you or your loved have sleep apnea, seek treatment right away. Contact the professionals at Northwest Pulmonary and Sleep Medicine at (815) 477-7350 or click here and schedule an appointment online to start on your journey to a well-deserved, restful night’s sleep.