Many people snore in their sleep. Most of the time it is harmless, and goes away when you change positions in your sleep. Sometimes, however, it can signal a much more serious problem called sleep apnea. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, a condition in which individuals actually stop breathing intermittently during the night. Sleep apnea is treatable, and it’s important to understand the condition to prevent it from affecting you or a loved one with serious consequences.
Sleep Apnea Basics and Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea breathing pauses during sleep typically last between 10 and 20 seconds, but they can occur many times during the night and can even wake the person experiencing the condition. The next day, you may notice feeling more fatigued than normal. When left untreated, this cycle can affect your general health over time. It can precipitate or worsen conditions like diabetes, weight gain, high blood pressure, and more.
There are two main types of sleep apnea, central and obstructive. With central sleep apnea, your breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. This happens because your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Other conditions, such as heart failure or a stroke, make also results in central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea that physicians treat. During obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles of the throat relax during sleep and block the airway. Snoring is an indicator that someone may have the condition, which commonly affects individuals who are overweight, but can also occur during the aging process.
Upon awaking, sleep apnea patients may choke or gasp at the lack of air. Many patients don’t remember waking up intermittently, but they are still affected from the sleep disturbance the next day.
Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea commonly involves using a breathing device called a CPAP. While CPAP technology has been around for years, it has recently become much more comfortable for patients to adopt. The technology keeps airways open during sleep, preventing the symptoms of sleep apnea. Alternatively, some individuals may undergo a medical procedure to alter their respiratory passages and promote the flow of air during sleep. Losing weight, stopping smoking, avoiding caffeine, and maintaining a regular sleep routine are all ways that individuals can effectively reduce or eliminate sleep apnea. Talk to your physician about healthy lifestyle changes that may help.
When to Seek Help
If you notice symptoms such as chronic fatigue, frequent wakefulness during the night, headaches in the morning, or having dry mouth upon waking, you may have sleep apnea. If your partner frequently mentions that you have been snoring during the evening, try to keep a sleep diary or record yourself sleeping to determine if you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Ask your doctor whether a sleep study or further evaluation is necessary.
Contact KCA Neurology to learn more about sleep apnea.