What is Sleep Apnea?

Apnea is defined as a involuntary breathing pause.  What is sleep apnea? This is the occurrence of breath pauses that happens during sleep. Breath pauses that last over 10 seconds are tagged as apneas. Everyone gets apnea during sleep. It is normal for everyone to have one to four apneas for every hour of sleep. 5-10 occurrences are already considered as a mild sleep apnea disorder. Mild apnea disorders can be addressed by proper sleeping positions, mouth, and tongue and throat exercises and by living healthy. 11-29 apneas inside an hour are moderate apnea and 30 occurrences is already a severe apnea case and would already require more drastic intervention and treatment.

What is sleep apnea in relation to the person’s overall health? Sleep apnea has a significant effect in the overall quality of life; it also poses several health risks. Below are some of sleep apnea symptoms;

  • EDS (Excessive Daytime Sleepiness) – The sleep pauses disrupt deep sleep. This will eventually lead to daytime sleepiness. It is not unusual for patients to fall asleep while reading, watching TV, working and even eating. This is especially risky when the patient is driving.
  • Snoring – Most snorers suffer sleep apnea, most specifically obstructive apnea.
  • Morning headaches, sore throat – Sleep apnea patients might not be aware of the sleep disruption as they would fall back to sleep right away, but repeatedly disrupted sleep causes headaches in the morning. Sore throat results from mouth breathers who suffer from obstructions in the nasal airways.
  • Depression – Continued frustration over poor performance could lead to mood swings, irritability and eventual depression.
  • Poor performance – Patient is usually lethargic and finds it difficult focus on certain tasks. This leads to poor productivity at work or school.
  • Stunted growth – In sleep apnea cases among children, growth and mental development are often stunted. It is also usual for children to show frustration and anger.

What is sleep apnea in relation to one’s way of life? Sleep apnea could be a result of physiological condition, an offshoot of another disease or operation or could be a result of abusive lifestyle. Here are some of the causes of sleep apnea;

  • Obesity – Obese people puts extra strain to their heart that needs to work harder, pumping up more blood. Obesity also clogs bloodstreams. In the same way, it also narrows the airways.
  • Airway obstruction – The obstruction could be an enlarged tonsils, adenoids or tongue. Slacking of the muscles would also result to it falling into and blocking the airways. The obstruction can also come from a misaligned nasal septum.
  • Smoking and drinking – Abusive lifestyle like smoking and excessive alcohol intake would lead to damaged nerves, including those lining the airways.
  • Age – Older people are more prone to sleep apnea due to slacking of the muscles.

There are a lot of sleep apnea treatments and remedies. Mild and moderate apnea cases can usually be addressed by living healthy, sleep positions and mouth and throat exercises. For more severe cases, mechanical devices like the CPAP can be used to facilitate normal breathing. Patients can also undergo sleep apnea surgeries to address the disorder.

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