Sleep apnea is a common, chronic condition that results in poor sleep quality. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly while they sleep. There are three basic types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction or blockage in the airway, such as an enlarged tonsil. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain itself, which fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this disorder, but any type of sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms:
The National Institutes of Health estimates that more than 12 million American suffer from some form of sleep apnea. Unfortunately, the condition cannot be detected during a regular doctor visit and often goes undiagnosed for this reason. Many people do not notice that they have a problem because it affects them while they sleep. In fact, sleep apnea is often noticed by a partner, spouse, or family member first. Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea. Those who suffer from the condition may also snore loudly and will definitely wake up frequently throughout the night. Some people also report morning headaches, sweating, chest pain, and swelling of the legs.
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis:
The only sure way to find out if you have sleep apnea is a polysomnography. This test records what happens to your body while you sleep. It monitors brain activity, muscle activity, eye movement, heart rate, blood oxygen levels, breathing patterns, and sleep patterns. A polysomnography can be ordered by your regular doctor and is usually conducted in a special sleep center. You will have to stay overnight so that you can be fully monitored. Your doctor may also suggest additional tests, such as an EKG, to make sure that your heart has not been damaged.
Sleep Apnea Treatment:
Sleep apnea requires long-term management and should not go untreated. If left untreated, sleep apnea can increase the risk of memory problems, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and heart failure. It can also cause headaches and create problems for people who are not getting enough sleep at night. If you aren’t rested, you could have an accident while driving, working, or completing everyday tasks.
The treatment for sleep apnea can vary depending on the type of apnea you have as well as the extent of your condition. Mild sleep apnea can often be managed or eliminated with small lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, quitting smoking, sleeping on your side, avoiding alcohol before bed, and improving airflow with nasal strips.
Moderate or severe sleep apnea may require medicine or oral breathing devices. If you have a severe case of obstructive sleep apnea, you may need surgery to remove tonsils, make your airway wider, or repair bone and tissue problems in your mouth or throat. Your doctor will be able to help you determine what type of treatments may work best for your condition.
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