To Give a second thought to his or her own problem of snoring while asleep, unless of course, somebody else is doing it, thus disrupting the other person’s sleep. Most people consider the problem of snoring to be just a noisy interruption which occasionally disrupts their sleep, but very few individuals are aware of the fact that frequent snoring means that something could be gravely wrong with the snorer’s breathing patterns. Recurrent and loud snoring in the sleep could very well be the sign of sleep apnea, a potentially grave disorder, ignoring which for too long can affect one’s health and well-being adversely.
Sleep apnea is a problem that occurs with the breathing pattern and mechanism of an individual during he or she is asleep. Apnea means ‘breathlessness’ in Greek. The breathing patterns become intermittent and irregular while the sufferer is sleeping, and the persistent pauses lead to the snoring. However, it is not just the problem of noisy snoring that should be paid heed to. The condition of sleep apnea, if untreated for too long, can lead to chronic deprivation of sleep, and other related problems like high blood pressure and diabetes, elevated risk of heart attack or stroke, inability to concentrate, slowed-down reflexes etc.
The breath pauses can disrupt the sufferer’s sleeping pattern and jolt them out of their sleep several times every night, which would force them to sleep light. The deep sleep pattern which is required by every person for the restoration of their energy levels, stamina and productivity goes missing, leading to chronic sleep problems.
Identification of the problem early on and immediate treatment help in preventing the onset of the other problems related to sleep apnea. One needs to be able to distinguish between casual snoring and snoring induced by sleep apnea early on for timely treatment and restored sleep patterns. The common symptoms include loud and persistent snoring with choking sounds and gasps, lengthy pauses between the breaths, frequent interrupted sleep and visits to the bathroom all through the night and fitful sleep. One could also experience uncharacteristic moodiness and irritability, sleepy and lethargic feeling in the daytime regardless of the long hours of sleeping in the night, undue forgetfulness and depression.
Most symptoms of sleep apnea occur in sleep and can go unnoticed for long, and can be pointed out with the help of an observant bed partner. What is more, not everyone who snores in their sleep could be suffering from sleep apnea; it is their behaviour and moodiness in the day time that can serve to be a telltale sign of a graver problem.
There are different types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and complex.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs due to the undue relaxation of the soft tissue present in the throat, thus blocking the airway, which leads to snoring. It is the most widespread of all the 3. The condition can cause a person who is aged 35 to 55 years. Overweight people are more prone to it. This is caused because of an obstruction which is created in the airway, due to the relaxing of the soft tissue in the throat.
Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, occurs due to improper functioning of the central nervous system. Known as the silent killer, this type of apnea does not lead to snoring and hence often goes unidentified. It is not such a common type as the first one. This kind of apnea is caused when the diaphragm and chest muscles fall for a short period of time. There is no obstruction in the airway. The brain receives a signal when the oxygen in the blood decreases and this causes the patient to wake up and gasp. It is usually found in older people.
Complex apnea is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea, wherein the symptoms are confusing and very difficult to identify. As the name suggests, it is a mixture of the first two types and is the rarest of all.
Information Regarding American Sleep Apnea Association
American Sleep Apnea Association or ASAA is a non-profit organization founded for extending support to those suffering from the ill-effects of sleep apnea, in order to help them understand the problem in a better manner, and know about the different treatment alternatives available. ASAA helps the sufferers identify and understand their problem by providing information about this condition. ASAA helps people understand that sleep apnea is not a disease, but a disorder which can be corrected with the help of timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment.
ASAA conducts various activities in different parts of the country in order to raise the awareness levels of general public regarding this disorder, so that people can identify their condition faster and resort to the treatment options without losing precious time. It coordinates with other non-profit organizations, health institutions and homes for elderly care etc in order to be able to reach the sufferers and to spread the information regarding sleep apnea and its complications.
It has a strong network of support groups collectively known as A.W.A.K.E, which stands for Alert, Well And Keeping Energetic, wherein expert physicians and therapists speak about therapy and other helpful treatment courses available for those suffering from sleep apnea, not to mention the legal issues and new findings from research.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure for Sleep Apnea Treatment
Effective sleep Apnea Treatment Options can relieve an individual from this condition, thus preventing it from taking a toll on their health and lifestyles. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is one of the most common treatment options available for sleep apnea disorder. In order to understand how CPAP works, one would have to understand the anatomy of sleep apnea. The frequent interruptions in breathing lead to dip in the oxygen levels in the blood flow. The brain responds to this situation by commanding the nervous system to restart the breathing process, which is often followed by a series of gasps and choking sounds.
The natural sleep cycle is disrupted in this process, even if the sufferer is consciously unaware of the same. CPAP is done with the aid of an equipment setup including a humidifier, hosing and a face mask which can be fitted comfortably to the face. CPAP is very effective especially for obstructive sleep apnea condition, as this method serves to create a splint in the airway with the aid of a pressurized air flow into the throat of the patient. The air pressure serves to keep the airways open, thus letting the breaths be uniform and free from long intervals. Breathing patterns are monitored even as the person is in a state of deep sleep, and one can be relieved from the condition called sleep apnea in due course of time.
High Blood Pressure Treatment Options
High blood pressure and sleep apnea are inherently related. The blood pressure of a person drops low to a steady level while in sleep. However, the interrupted sleep cycle and intermittent breath intervals lead towards elevated blood pressure which can elevate the cardiovascular risk of the person to a great extent. Treatment options like CPAP, as well as oral sleep apnea devices are helpful in opening the airways and helping the person to sleep soundly, thus bringing their blood pressure back to normal.
Sleep apnea in children
The most common type of sleep apnea that is found in children is the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. If you notice that your child is unable to stay attentive during daytime or is having problems related to interpersonal skills, it could be a probable symptom. The condition is very serious and has to be dealt with in a timely manner. It is not an easy task for someone who is not a physician to diagnose this disease in children. Here are some other symptoms which can be prevalent:
- Loud snoring.
- Abnormalities in weight, either loss or gain.
- Most children suffering from this condition breathe with their mouths.
- Bigger tonsils and adenoids.
- Feeling sleepy during the day.
- Behavioral changes.
- Being unable to concentrate.
- Some children also develop high blood pressure.
- Wetting the bed, etc.
There are several non surgical as well as surgical treatment options available for sleep apnea. The following is a list of some of them:
Removing tonsils or adenoids is the most common surgical treatment type in children. Other than this, the C-PAP (Continuous positive airway pressure) machine is also often used. It is a nose mask which blows air into the nose and helps in removing any obstructions.
The position in which one sleeps can help in controlling the symptoms. Furthermore, there are some dental appliances which can be used by adults. These help in keeping the jaw and tongue forward. This way, the palate is upwards and the airway remains open. The C-PAP is another method of curbing the obstruction.
If none of the above non surgical treatments are effective, then surgery is the only option. Depending on the type of apnea and the person who is suffering from the disease, the treatment is decided by a physician. Some of the surgeries done are palate implants, nasal airway surgery, bariatric surgery, etc.
There are some self help options which can help one in mild cases of sleep apnea. Here are the options:
It has been observed that being overweight is one of the causes for sleep apnea. Efforts should be made to lose excessive weight.
Tobacco is another harmful cause. Those who are diagnosed with apnea should quit smoking.
Alcohol should also be avoided.
Maintain a sleeping schedule and follow it religiously.
Who has sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea affects children as well as adults. Anyone who has a narrow organ in the respiratory system is prone to the condition. It is a very dangerous disease and can sometimes lead to death if it is not diagnosed correctly.
Some of the risk factors are as follows:
- Middle or old age
- Someone in your family suffers from the disease
- If you smoke or drink
- It is found more in men than women
Diagnosis of sleep apnea
There are several ways of diagnosing sleep apnea. When in doubt, go to a relevant physician and you may be asked the following questions:
- Your pattern and timings for sleeping are noted down and your family members are also asked about your activities during the day.
- The mouth, throat, tongue, etc. are physically examined for any enlargements.
- How your body behaves when you sleep is also an important aspect.
A sleep recording test also produces accurate results. This records the brain activity, eye movement, heart rate, etc whilst sleeping movements.
- Effect of drugs or alcohol
- Sleeping posture
- Fatigue or over strenuous work
- Jet lag or sleep pattern problems
- Lack of fixed time of sleeping
- Very little or too much sleep and so on
Once you identify what is the exact cause for your snoring problem, finding a solution becomes easier. Any sleep specialist will be able to tell you what the exact cause of your snoring problem is after studying your lifestyle in detail.
Find out more information regarding snoring cures and also check out our sleep apnea information page to obtain professional advice in order to maximize your sleep health.