Sleep apnea literally means, ‘Cessation of breathing during sleep’ and its variations are actually quite old, having been found in several ancient texts. And, according to a research by the National Institute of Health, “Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. Sometimes they occur 30 times or more an hour.” People with severe sleep apnea may struggle for breathe all through the night, not breathing for as long as 90 seconds at a time during their sleep.
And the syndrome that affects at least four percent of men and two percent of women, can cause daytime fatigue, traffic and work accidents, deteriorating cognitive abilities, and cardiovascular problems. And another surprising fact is, 18 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea are 3x times more likely to experience heart attack and 4x more likely to have a stroke if gone untreated. If you want more surprises, here it is, nearly 25% of children diagnosed with ADHD have symptoms of sleep apnea, which may be the cause of their learning and behavioral problems.
Before we get deep into the topic, let’s discuss what a normal or healthy sleep is.
What is a Healthy Sleep?
The night sleep is divided into five different stages, 4 Non REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and a REM stage:
- Stage 1 = One Sleep Stage
- Stage 2 = Light Sleep Stage
- Stage 3 = Middle Sleep Stage
- Stage 4 = Deep Sleep Stage
- REM sleep
One sleep stage is the level where you will have an approx. of 5-20 minutes of sleep, and it becomes stage 4 when stage 1 becomes a deep one. In light sleep stage, you’ll have approx. 90-120 minutes of sleep. Such a sleep cycle lasts for about 90-120 minutes and will pass through about four in the course of a night until five times. Remove the amount of deep sleep with increasing sleep duration, the REM phase increase, however.
“A man spends nearly one quarter to a third of his life in the sleep i.e. about 233 600 hours or better to say 27 years. And the remaining 53 years of life which are spent in the awake condition are influenced by the sleep quality considerably”.
Types of Sleep Apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: It is the most common form of sleep apnea and is believed to affect approx. 4% of men and 2% of women. Obstructive sleep apnea is considered as a mechanical problem.
- Central Sleep Apnea: It occurs when your brain temporarily fails to signal the muscles responsible for controlling breathing. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is more of a communicating problem.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea symptoms.
Get a detailed info on the types of sleep apnea at https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/sleepapnea.html
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Thinking whether you are dealing with sleep apnea? If you are not completely aware of it, here are the symptoms which may clue you in to the possibility that you have sleep apnea:
- Snoring – Just because you snore doesn’t necessarily means that you are suffering from sleep apnea. Snoring may be caused by this condition but check whether it has become a continual problem. People with obstructive sleep apnea are the only ones who experience this symptom. This is caused due to the blockage of air way causing very noisy snores; usually loud enough to keep your spouse awake.
- Dry Mouth – Snoring with your mouth widely opened is due to dry mouth. When your mouth is open, your saliva tends to dry up as you deeply breathe in and out through the mouth. As a result of dry mouth and throat, you’ll wake up very thirsty.
- Daytime Sleepiness – Due to the lack of sleep during the night, you’ll find yourself very sleepy during the day time. You’ll also find yourself dozing at awkward hours in the day and in awkward places like the bathroom.
- Dizziness: Improper sleep during the night make you tired the whole next day. If you don’t sleep as required, both your body and mind become too exhausted to function properly.
All the above symptoms may not be so serious and you might think that you can get to the bed earlier, sleep more hours or cutting your regular caffeine etc…, however these simple strategies won’t work! Sad but true… Untreated sleep apnea can have a severe negative health impact on yourself.
Health Impact of Sleep Apnea
Heart Attack: A research performed by Mayo Clinic, “People suffering from sleep apnea with heart condition are more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke during sleep.” Also, the lack of consistent oxygen supply to the brain and body is very dangerous for those with certain heart conditions.
Stroke: This is very common in people with obstructive sleep apnea. A change in the cerebrovascular function can quickly lead to stroke and other complications brought about by reduced brain activity.
Stress and Depression: If left untreated, the life that you are enjoying and the standard to living you become accustomed to can all disappear. Yes, sleep apnea can quickly ruin your life in all aspects and see you slip into depression. The low brain activity is likely to affect your productivity level especially at the work place. The sleepiness all the time and irritability is likely to render you incompetent to perform and relate well with others.
Death in Small Children: Children born prematurely at a higher chance of suffering from central sleep apnea than those born normally. Oxygen supply to their body and the brain might stop for as long as 20 seconds that can be very risky for infants.
So what to do next? Get treatment immediately instead of avoiding it. Remember the proverb prevention is better than cure, so act wisely and have a healthy life.
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