Sleep Apnea

And How It Effects You

Sleep apnea is a health condition that happens when one's breathing during sleep stop for a while, usually 10 seconds or even longer.  Apnea could happen 5 to 45 times per hour.  Apnea is usually associated with choking sensations and often leads to headaches and sleepiness during the day.

Its moderateness or severity is measured with respect to the frequency of episodes per hour, whether you have no breathing (apnea) or slower breathing (hypopnea).

man with sleep apnea
Sleep Apnea

Apnea occurs mostly but not limited to men and not specific to any age group.  Loud snoring is usually associated with apnea.  People with high blood pressure and obese are most likely to develop apnea.  Problems in the nose, throat and air passageway can also cause apnea.

Early detection of this is very important since it usually implies an underlying health condition such as heart problems.  In come cases, apnea happens when the muscles in the throat and tongue relax when one is sleeping, which eventually lead to blockage of the air passageway to some varying degree.  Then breathing becomes noisier, slow or even stops for a while.

Obese people have greater possibilities of having apnea since they have more tissue in the airway that makes it to narrow for normal breathing.

Apnea makes an active person feel sleepy in the morning and affects their concentration at work.  Severe apnea could lead to depression, memory loss, irritability and other negative socio-psychological conditions.

Apnea could increase the risk of having a heart attack, high blood pressure and even stroke.

You should suspect having a sleep apnea disorder when the following conditions occur:

  • Heavy snoring during sleep while struggling to breathe.  The spouse or roommate usually monitors this.
  • Co-workers noticing one's lack of concentration at work and falling to sleep frequently.
  • Headaches upon waking up from sleep.
  • Frequent urination at night.
  • heartburn during the night.
  • Frequent changing in sleep position restlessly.
  • Night time choking episodes

Detecting apnea is a collaborative effort among your family physician, neurologist and pulmonologist.

Types of treatment for sleep apnea:

  • Behavioral Therapy.  It is usually all that is needed for a mild case.  It changes the persons behavior towards the use of alcohol and tobacco which affects the airway.  For an obese person, the therapy also includes a weight loss  program.  Overweight persons can benefit from losing weight.  Even a small amount of weight loss will lower the frequency of apnea in a majority of patients.
  • Physical or Mechanical Therapy.  Here is one of the most effective ways of treating apnea.  During the therapy, the patient wears a mask on his nose during sleep while applying air while applying air pressure to the nasal passages.  The therapy provides air pressure to keep the airway from narrowing.
  • Surgery for Adults.  Surgery is considered only when other alternative therapy failed or if the patient volunteered to.  Surgery aims to remove unnecessary tissue build-up in the throat to open up the airway.

The best cure for apnea is prevention.  There are several ways to prevent one from having to develop apnea and reduce the frequency of the attacks:

  • Many apnea patients are obese.  Maintaining a healthy weight is a sure way to prevent the frequency of apnea episodes since it increases the volume of oxygen in the blood.  Studies showed that a 10 percent decrease in weight would reduce the frequency of apnea episodes up to 26 percent.
  • Avoid or at least limit alcohol intake.
  • Avoid or limit the use of tranquilizers, sleeping pills.
  • Have time for enough sleep.  Lack of sleep increases the frequency of apnea attacks.
  • Treat allergies and runny nose promptly.
  • Avoid sleeping on your back.

This is a serious disease.  It could be just a symptom of other more serious illnesses such as hypertension and heart disease.  Should you suspect having the symptoms, take time to visit your family physician.

Early detection and diagnoses of sleep apnea could save your life.  Apnea is a deadly disorder that gets worse as you grow older.  Not only does sleep apnea cause you sleep deprivation, but worse, it can pose danger to your life.

Anyone can have apnea.  According to recent statistics, at least 12 million Americans suffer from apnea.  The majority of those suffering from this are overweight and heavy snorers.