Sleep Apnea – What to Look Out For

Do you feel tired after a full night of sleep? Has anyone ever complained that you snore or have disrupted breathing while you sleep? If so, you may want to speak with your doctor about being tested for sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which your breathing stops and starts throughout the night. Sleep apnea can cause difficulty concentrating, irritability, depression, memory problems, as well as a number of chronic diseases.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  1. Loud snoring that disturbs others sleep
  2. Breathing that stops during sleep
  3. Waking abruptly with shortness of breath or a feeling of choking
  4. Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  5. Waking up with a headache
  6. Difficulty staying asleep
  7. Feeling very sleepy during the day which may cause you to fall asleep while working, watching TV or even driving
  8. Difficulty paying attention
  9. Irritability

There are 3 main types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and complex sleep apnea syndrome.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by relaxation of the muscles in the back of the throat.  These muscles support the roof of the mouth, tonsils, sides of the throat, and tongue.  When these muscles relax, the airway narrows or closes, which stops breathing and lowers the level of oxygen in the blood. This briefly wakes you up, however you likely won’t remember waking up though you might make a snorting, choking or gasping sound. What’s truly remarkable is that this pattern can repeat itself 5-30 times every hour all night long!

Central sleep apnea is occurs when the brain fails to send nerve impulses to your breathing muscles.  This means you make no effort to breathe for short periods of time.  People with central sleep apnea often wake up with shortness of breath, and have a difficulty time falling back to sleep and staying asleep.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome is when a person has both central and obstructive sleep apnea.

Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include, but are not limited to:

  1. Being overweight or obese
  2. Having a large neck circumference
  3. Having a narrow airway
  4. Being male
  5. Being older
  6. Having a family history of sleep apnea
  7. Using of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
  8. Smoking
  9. Having regular nasal congestion

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