Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that has come to the forefront in the last twenty years. Everybody experiences a mild form at some point in their life, such as when they have a respiratory infection or some other type of temporary breathing problem. However I’ll only be discussing the person with chronic type in this article. I’m surprised at how many people have been diagnosed with it, just in my family. My father was diagnosed with it, I had an aunt that was diagnosed with it, and I think my wife may have the condition (she is scheduled for a sleep study shortly).
The strange thing is that as many people that are diagnosed with it, there are more people that don’t even know they have it. Since it is a condition that only presents active symptoms when a person is asleep, a person may never know they have it unless someone else witnesses the symptoms. The only way a person themselves might realize they suffer from it is if they complain to their physician about being constantly tired and the physician confirms the diagnosis with a sleep study.
There are actually three different types of sleep apnea, which most people don’t realize. This article will deal with the most commonly diagnosed type, which is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). The majority of sufferers will be diagnosed with this type. The reason it is called obstructive is relatively self-explanatory, something block or “obstructs” the airway during sleep. Because of the obstructed airway, people experience low blood oxygen levels which can ultimately lead to death if untreated. There are certain groups more at risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea than others. They can include but aren’t limited to:
- Overweight individuals
- Older individuals
- Individuals with decreased muscle tone
- Cigarette smokers
Some of the aforementioned groups can do nothing about decreasing their risk factors, such as older males, but some of the other groups can. If you are overweight it is vitally important that you lose some weight as this may reduce or alleviate the symptoms and if you smoke it is important to quit as the oxygen levels in your blood will begin to increase almost immediately.
If a person is afflicted with this problem, there are two types of symptoms they will show. Those symptoms exhibited at night while the person is sleeping which will generally include:
- Waking up gasping for breath
Those symptoms exhibit during the daytime will generally include:
- Excessive yawning
- Inability to focus
- Hard time staying awake
- Generalized feeling of fatigue.
With today’s sleep apnea treatment(s), a person can live a long, productive, and hopefully rested life.