Sleep apnea is a condition that frequently goes undetected until it has been around for years and has caused a great deal of damage to the body. It is very important to know what sleep is and how to identify and treat it.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Those with sleep apnea actually stop breathing over a hundred times in any given night while they sleep. This causes extremely loud snoring, quiet pauses in breathing and difficulty staying asleep. They will often wake up with a raw, dry throat. They exhibit low energy throughout the day and wake up feeling tired. Often those with sleep apnea will feel groggy when driving and they will have headaches in the morning. They might even wake up in the middle of the night choking or coughing.
The cumulative effect of this behavior is that the brain is slowly deprived of oxygen. There are two types of Sleep Apnea. Central sleep apnea is caused by a failure for the brain to send the proper signals to the respiration system. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common. It is caused by a physical blockage of the throat, often when the tongue or tissue in the back of the throat shifts. Those who think they may have sleep apnea should schedule a sleep evaluation in a clinical setting. This test is known as a polysomnogram or a “sleep study,” and it usually takes place over the course of one night.
Who Usually gets Sleep Apnea?
People susceptible to sleep apnea include those who are obese and people who are over the age of 40. Sleep apnea occurs more often in men and in those with a large neck size. There is also a connection between sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux. Those with allergies or a deviated septum also frequently develop this condition.
What Are the Short-Term Consequences of Sleep Apnea?
Once sleep apnea is developed, a person might notice a number of symptoms. The most common one is feeling tired and worn out throughout the day. This can quickly lead to problems at work and home. A few nights of bad sleep can also contribute to a car accident. It is believed that sleep apnea was the cause of analytical errors that led to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.
Some people get restless leg syndrome. Others develop narcolepsy, which is an extremely debilitating condition that can stop a person from driving or keeping a job. It is known to cause anxiety, irritability and is strongly connected with an increase in the frequency of alcohol consumption.
What are the Long-Term Consequences of Untreated Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea may seem like more of an inconvenience than a health threat, but the truth is that in the long term it can be deadly. Those with moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea have a much greater chance of getting cancer or having a stroke.
There was a study done over the course of 20 years. In that study, clinicians found that cancer rates were over two times higher in people who had sleep apnea. Those same people were also four times more likely to have a stroke.
This condition can lead to many different ailments. High blood pressure is common in those with sleep apnea. Depression is common in those with sleep apnea. Frequent headaches and an increase of symptoms with those who have ADHD are other long-term effects. In general it is believed that those with untreated sleep apnea perform poorly in their daily tasks, are more likely to get into car accidents, and perform poorly in school.
What Can Be Done to Cure Sleep Apnea?
Recovery is possible. Losing weight, quitting smoking and avoiding alcohol are all extremely beneficial to eliminating sleep apnea. Knowing the safest sleep positions can help to free up the air passages and lead to a better night’s sleep. If at all possible, people with sleep apnea need to avoid sleeping on their back.
There are a few ways to treat this condition. Some people get a CPAP machine, which has a mask that is worn over the mouth while the patient sleeps. This machine keeps breathing regular. There also a number of dental devices that can aid in air flow.
Certain surgeries can be performed to correct physical deficiencies that are contributing to the problem. For some people, fixing a deviated septum clears up the issue.
Others get an Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, a medical procedure where tissue is actually removed from the throat to widen the airways and remove blockages.
Orthognathic surgery is one of, if not the most effective treatments for sleep apnea. This surgery is used for many different skeletal and dental issues that often involve realigning the jaw.
This process is done over a long period of time and involves wearing orthodontics before and after the surgery is performed. The patient is usually discharged the day after surgery. Years ago, surgeries like these required the mouth to be wired shut for over a month. That is no longer necessary. The only discomfort is the fact that the patient will have to eat soft foods for about a month after the procedure is done.
The results are always a major improvement, with many case studies to back it up. It is regarded as one of the most effective sleep apnea treatments.
What Can Be Done About Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is dangerous and it should not be taken lightly. It starts out as an inconvenience for a spouse. It quickly becomes a condition that leaves people despondent, ill and prone to getting in car accidents. It is the underlying cause of many problems and conditions that go undetected.
Dealing with sleep apnea is not difficult or painful. It is simply a process that needs to be done and done right now. Sleep apnea takes years and even decades off of people’s lives. If you or someone you love has sleep apnea, set up an appointment to deal with it right away.