Sleep apnea is a problem characterized by the interruption of breathing during sleep. In Greek, apnea literally means “without breath”. It is a problem that can lead to some very serious health issues if left untreated. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. This problem is characterized by a blocking of the air way that allows us to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea may be caused by a number of blockages; a large uvula, deformation of the jaw, excess weight, deformation of the nasal cavity and allergies are some of the more common reasons people experience this disorder. Central sleep apnea, the other type of sleep apnea, occurs when the brain’s breathing signaling goes awry, causing the afflicted person to stop breathing without any obstruction causing the problem.
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A case of sleep apnea is diagnosed when a person is found to have periods of apnea lasting 10 seconds or longer frequently throughout the night. These apneas can cause the afflicted person to wake from sleep, gasping for air. People with sleep apnea often complain of sore throats due to the friction of the uvula and the soft palate that occurs when one experiences apnea attacks. While sleep apnea is usually accompanied by snoring, it is by no means necessary. Many people with sleep apnea do not snore at all. One of the main symptoms of sleep apnea is an intense daytime exhaustion persisting for a long period of time. This is due to the fact that people with this disorder wake up many times in their sleep, causing a lack of good, REM sleep. People with apnea also tend to experience headaches, trouble with concentration, intense irritability, forgetfulness, and anxiety. Weight gain is also common among apnea sufferers, as well as an increased heart rate and depression. If you think that you or someone you love is afflicted with sleep apnea, you can head to a hospital for a polysomnography test. This test incorporates a monitoring of a person’s sleep patterns, and is completely painless. Polysomnography is often covered by insurance carriers, so it can’t hurt to check. An overnight study is necessary, and the results of this study can greatly determine whether or not a person has apnea.
When a case of apnea is diagnosed, the most common treatment is called a CPAP. This stands for continuous positive airway pressure, and it is performed via an air compressor that forces air into the air way on a regular basis, ensuring sound breathing. In more serious cases of sleep apnea, surgery may need to be performed to eliminate any obstructions that may be causing OSA. If you think that you may have sleep apnea, it is important to get tested for it. Long term effects of sleep apnea include an increased chance of hypertension, irregular heartbeat, and strokes. Also, the chance of being in traffic accidents increases to 700% when untreated apnea is present. Treatment is possible for sleep apnea, so the quicker that you act the better.