Everything you needed to know about sleep apnea and more

You have heard the term and probably have thought to yourself just what is sleep apnea? Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that if left untreated can result in some serious medical complications. Sleep apnea affects millions of people and can come in varying levels of intensity. Anyone can develop sleep apnea however there are certain risk factors that can make one more prone to developing this sleep disorder. In order to better understand sleep apnea and the sleep apnea causes we will need to take an in-depth look into the various forms of sleep apnea.

The different forms of sleep apnea

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Sleep apnea is considered to be a medical condition. Sleep apnea is defined as periods of non-breathing during sleep. The breathing will resume on it’s own and many times when this happens the person who is suffering from sleep apnea will wake up. The frequency that the cessation of breathing occurs will be dependent on the type of sleep apnea that one has. All patients who have sleep apnea will suffer from these episodes; some just have to deal with longer periods between breaths as well as higher frequency rate of this happening.

The first form of sleep apnea is often referred to as mild sleep apnea. Mild sleep apnea does not occur on a regular basis and people who have this form of sleep apnea often do not need to seek out treatment. Occasional sleep apnea can occur from time to time and even more so if someone snores during sleep. People who have mild sleep apnea often do not know they have it nor do they present with any signs and symptoms.

Moderate to severe sleep apnea is more common and is the form of sleep apnea that one should be concerned with. Generally speaking people who have moderate to severe sleep apnea will have numerous episodes during the night where the breathing will stop. Depending on severe the sleep apnea is will determine how long the cessation of breathing will last. People with severe sleep apnea will require a form of treatment to help control the sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is also known as obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea and is often seen in people who are over the age of 50. People who are obese also tend to develop severe sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea is a rare form of sleep apnea that is usually caused by underlying medical conditions. In central sleep apnea instead of the breathing stopping the message sent back and forth to the brain are often delayed. This type of sleep apnea involves the entire central nervous system and can be much more dangerous than the other forms of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send or receive the messages from the muscles that are responsible for breathing. The big difference to note is that in severe sleep apnea there is an airway obstruction of some type and in central sleep apnea it deals with relaying of messages from the central nervous system.

Another form of sleep apnea is complex sleep apnea. This is also a much more rare form of sleep apnea and is basically a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can often be hard to diagnosis. The signs and symptoms of severe sleep apnea are often what will lead a doctor to the diagnosis of sleep apnea. There are many signs and symptoms that one should be aware of when it comes to sleep apnea. The first thing that often comes to people mind when they hear the word sleep apnea is snoring. While snoring and sleep apnea can be related this is not always the case. People who have central sleep apnea seldom snore. Just because someone does snore does not imply that they have sleep apnea. The reverse is also true meaning that not everyone who has sleep apnea will snore. It is important to keep this in mind when trying to determine if you may have sleep apnea.

The key signs that are identified with obstructive sleep apnea include the following:

  • Extreme fatigue during the day. People with severe sleep apnea will have a hard time staying away and are always suffering from being overtired.
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Inability to think clear. The feeling that you are always in a fog.
  • Chronic snorting, gasping or choking during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Restless sleep
  • Dry mouth or a sore throat when waking up
  • Waking up and feeling out of breath
  • Forgetfulness and difficulty being able to concentrate during the day
  • Long pauses in breathing while sleeping

Usually the number one sign that something may wrong is the level of tiredness that one feels during the day. No matter how many hours you think you are sleeping, you will always feel tired. This is simply due to the fact that your sleep patterns are always being interrupted due to cycle of breathing and not breathing. Severe sleep apnea is often diagnosed based on the key signs and symptoms listed above.

Risk factors for severe sleep apnea

In some cases sleep apnea can result due to an underlying medical condition. There are also some risk factors that one should be aware of. Some of the risk factors are things that we can control and others are ones that we cannot. Below is a list of the some risk factors for developing one of the types of sleep apnea.

  • A family history of sleep apnea
  • Being overweight/obese
  • People over the age of 65
  • A history of smoking
  • Certain races such as African America, Hispanic and Pacific Islander
  • Thick neck
  • Deviated septum
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Other physical attributes that may limit or block the airways

Sleep apnea in children

Anyone can develop sleep apnea at any age. Sleep apnea in children is also common and tends to generally affect children between the ages of 2 and 6. Children who have Down’s Syndrome are also at risk for developing sleep apnea in children. Children will present with different symptoms then adults. These often include sleeping in odd positions, behavioral issues, development and growth related issues, mouth breathing, getting easily frustrated and a decrease in school performance. Children with sleep apnea will seldom snore.

Sleep apnea in children is most commonly caused by enlarged tonsils. This is corrected by the removal of the tonsils. Once the tonsils have been removed the sleep apnea often corrects itself. Some children may develop sleep apnea due to other factors such as being overweight. Sleep apnea in children is often treated by dealing with the underlying issues first such as the removal of the tonsils.

Treatment for severe sleep apnea

Sleep apnea if left untreated can lead to some serious medical problems. The good news is that for the most part severe sleep apnea can be treated. One form of treatment is the use of a CPAP machine. This is a machine that will help to regulate how one breathe during the night and can help to keep the airways open. This form of treatment is often very effective and people tend to respond very well to CPAP therapy. It may take a while for people to adjust to wearing a mask while they sleep but once the find the right mask the level of discomfort fades.

It is important to ensure that the mask does fit properly and that there are no leaks. Take the time to try on several masks to ensure a proper fitting of a mask.

Other forms of treatment can include dental devices that are designed to keep the air way open as well as some surgical procedures. Surgery is usually the last resort and only used when all other forms of treatment have failed. This is not the case when it comes to sleep apnea in children. As surgery to remove the enlarged tonsils is often the best course of action.

The bottom line is that treatment is needed. Never leave severe sleep apnea go untreated for too long. People who suffer from sleep apnea face many challenges. Since the sleep patterns are disrupted the quality of life is often lowered. Due to this fact sleep apnea and depression often go hand in hand. Since one is tired all the time and have constant mood swings it can also damage social relations. This only adds more to the fact that sleep apnea and depression can be related. The more depressed one gets the lower the quality of life will become as well. In some cases sleep apnea and weight gain have also been linked together.

There is help available for those who suffer from sleep apnea. Getting good night’s sleep is possible even for those who suffer from severe sleep apnea. Talk with your doctor and get on a treatment plan that will allow you to get the sleep that you so deserve.