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February 11, 2019

What to know about sleep apnea

Types, symptoms, and treatments

Adult Health Sleep

Content sponsored by IBC - Native (195x33)

Man snoring causes woman to not be able to sleep Tero Vesalainen/

In this undeniably fast-paced, goal driven, and productivity-based society, it is important for each person to be functioning at their highest abilities. This is why quality sleep has never been so important — but, too often, sleep gets put on the back burner.

A lousy night’s rest affects more than a person’s daily performance. Consistent sleep issues can lead to serious health problems, including hypertension, depression, anxiety, and an inefficient immune system. But, what if there is an underlying medical concern already to blame for poor sleep?

Sleep apnea is the root of inadequate sleep for more than 18 million American adults. This condition is not something that should be taken lightly — if your partner mentions your loud snoring, gasping, and irregular breathing during sleep, talk to a doctor immediately.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing repeatedly starts and stops during sleep. There are three main types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central, and complex. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of the disorder. This occurs when a person’s muscles relax improperly, blocking the airways in their throat. Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain’s failure to send appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing. Complex sleep apnea includes a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea symptoms, and is typically experienced by people already being treated for obstructive sleep apnea.

What are the symptoms?

No matter what type of sleep apnea you have, you’ll experience breathing interruptions while sleeping. These disruptions are called apneic events, and may occur up to 30 times per hour. Loud snoring is one of the main symptoms associated with sleep apnea; but it is not always indicative of the disorder. Other symptoms include choking, dry mouth, sore throat, fatigue, and headaches upon waking up.

Long-term effects of sleep apnea

When ignored or left untreated, sleep apnea can cause significant health issues that may have long-term effects on a person’s body and quality of life. The disorder is directly related to heart disease and hypertension because of the strain it places on your cardiovascular system. Studies have also suggested that sleep apnea is associated with type 2 diabetes, due to increased blood sugar levels. While obesity is not a direct effect of the disorder, being overweight is common among sleep apnea patients, and can increase your risk of developing cardiovascular and metabolic problems.

Ways to combat sleep apnea

Building healthy sleeping habits, including establishing a schedule, staying clear of electronics in bed, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine, is key to improving the symptoms associated with sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep. Maintaining a healthy weight is an important step in battling sleep apnea (or avoiding it altogether). Try sleeping with a humidifier, practicing yoga to improve breathing patterns and oxygen levels, or sleeping on your side. If you continue to wake up feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep, consult with a medical professional to determine if sleep apnea could be the cause.

Treating sleep apnea

Sleep studies can be an excellent way for a doctor to better understand your sleep experience, allowing a sleep technician to collect data and gain a clear understanding of possible medical conditions. In addition, a doctor may even recommend a CPAP machine (continuous positive airflow pressure). This tool sends a constant airflow to your throat, effectively treating apneic events.

Though scary and sometimes overwhelming, sleep apnea is common, and there are numerous resources available to those who may be experiencing this sleep disturbance.

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The information on this web site is for general information purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or health care provider on any matters relating to your health.

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