Man sleeps while seating

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A nighttime intruder creeps into the deepest corners of your sleep, and quietly takes your breath.

This sounds like a really terrifying nightmare.  In fact,  it’s something that countless men, women, and children, face every night of their lives.

Sleep apnea is generally a medical problem characterized by the interruption of breathing during sleep. The literal translation of ‘apnea’, in Greek,  is “without breath”.  If left untreated, it is a problem that can lead to some very serious health concerns.

The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea,  also known as OSA.  This problem is generally characterized by a blockage of the airway that allows us to breathe.  There are several factors that may cause the blockage in obstructive sleep apnea.  Deformation of the jaw,  excess weight, large uvula, deformation of the nasal cavity and allergies are some of the more common reasons people experience this disorder.

Another form of apnea is called central sleep apnea.  This condition strikes when the brain’s breathing signaling goes awry, causing the afflicted person to stop breathing without any physical airway obstructions.

Although sleep apnea is a fairly common concern, cases are considered to present a danger when a person is found to have periods of apnea lasting 10 seconds or longer, and suffer frequent episodes throughout the night.  When apneas happen, the afflicted person wakes from sleep, gasping for air.  These attacks can cause irritation due to friction of the soft palate and the uvula, causing those who suffer from sleep apnea to wake in the morning with a sore throat.

There are several related health problems that can be caused by sleep apnea:

* Snoring:  While sleep apnea is normally accompanied by snoring, it is by no means an essential sign or symptom. Many individuals who suffer with sleep apnea do not snore at all.

* Daytime Fatigue:  This is one of the major symptoms of sleep apnea.  Those who suffer from the condition are unable to fall in to a solid REM sleep.  Because they wake up so many times during the night, they end up feeling worn out all day long.  Forgetfulness, trouble concentrating, intense irritability,  and anxiety are also signs of apnea.

*  Headaches:  A morning headache is one of the common symptoms that sleep apnea may be a problem. Usually, frequent waking during the night also causes headaches.

Other common side effects include  increased heart rate, weight gain, and depression.

If you think that you, or your partner, suffer from sleep apnea, there is a simple test that can validate the condition. The polysomnography test is an overnight study, performed while you sleep at the hospital.  The test is entirely painless and is covered by many insurance carriers.

If sleep apnea is confirmed, there are various treatment methods available.  One common medication is called a CPAP, or ‘continuous positive airway pressure’.  The treatment is conducted via an air compressor that forces air into the airway on a continual basis, ensuring sound breathing.   More serious cases of sleep apnea may require surgery to get rid of any of the obstructions blocking the airway and causing the OSA.

If you think that you may have sleep apnea, it is essential to see you doctor and take the test.  The long-term effects of sleep apnea include stroke, an irregular heartbeat, and an increased chance of hypertension.   Additionally, your chances of being hurt or killed in an automobile accident increases by a whopping 700 percent when sleep apnea causes daytime drowsiness.

Treatment alternatives are easy and readily available.  Don’t sleep on it — get the treatment you require, as soon as possible!

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Filed under: Sleep Apnea