Sleep Apnea: The Silent Killer
Not getting a well night’s rest may be a bigger problem than you may have once thought. Buying a new mattress won’t help the cause; approximately 10% of the U.S. population has sleep apnea. A good portion of the population is unaware of this disorder and the huge negative health effects associated with this silent killer.
The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are abnormal pauses in breathing, roughly 10-30 pauses an hour that reoccur throughout the night. Snoring and restless nights are also associated with sleep apnea. It’s not uncommon for someone to briefly stop breathing 250 – 300 times per night.
There are 2 classifications of sleep apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). OSA is more common of the two and is classified by blockage of the airways. Unlike OSA, CSA is not caused by a blocked airway but rather the failure of the brain to signal the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control center. Both classifications of sleep apnea are serious and life threatening
Sleep apnea is caused when the muscles in the throat supporting the soft palate relax and collapse restricting airflow. The brain senses the lack of oxygen entering and instinctively reacts, causing a person to break out of deep sleep and regain a regular breathing cycle. Individuals with sleep apnea are rarely aware of their condition mainly due to lack of information. While a person may not fully awake during an apnea, or pause in breathing, they will feel its effects the next day.
To a person who isn’t suffering from sleep apnea, the health effects may seem minor to them. Truth of the matter is it gets serious. The short-term effects are apparent – daytime fatigue and sleepiness, trouble getting out of bed in the morning, irritability and often times an increase in appetite. The long-term effects can worry some, ranging from memory loss, hypertension to stroke or heart attack. Sleep apnea is known as the silent killer, due mostly in part to its being unknown to the individual during sleep. Unless properly diagnosed, this disorder can have adverse health effects for years to come.
There are many ways to approach getting rid of sleep apnea. A CPAP (Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure) is a common treatment. A CPAP machine is a mask-like device that provides a constant and continuous stream of air that helps keep your airways open and unblocked. Individuals using this machine can expect to notice immediate relief from symptoms and an increase in their energy levels.
Alternatively, a more drastic approach is surgery where they expand the airflow passage in attempt to alleviate the problem of blocked airways. If the CPAP and surgery seem to be too drastic, there are also dental devices a person can wear during the night to alter their jaw position temporarily to allow for a well relaxed night’s rest.
If you suspect you may suffer from sleep apnea, contact your primary care physician for further information.