Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) falls into the category of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB).
This condition occurs when the upper airway partially or completely obstructs when you are sleeping. This creates a dangerous situation for your body, since the resulting oxygen deprivation arouses your central nervous system and stresses your cardiovascular system. Sleep becomes fragmented, further stressing your body’s systems and potentially leading to poor neurocognitive performance and damaged organ systems. Sadly, undiagnosed and untreated sleep apnea can result in a marked worsening of many common conditions such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, congestive heart failure, depression, and stroke.
If you suspect that sleep apnea might be stressing your body and interrupting your sleep, make an appointment with your doctor right away.
Sleep Apnea: What It Feels Like
People with sleep apnea typically snore and often feel sleepy, fatigued, or have trouble concentrating. You might be very aware of struggling to breathe, waking up throughout the night, or gasping and choking in your sleep. But sometimes people with sleep apnea don’t even realise how disrupted their sleep really is—instead, a concerned bed partner might report the troubling behaviours they are observing.
It’s important to treat these occurrences with the seriousness they deserve. Snoring isn’t a minor annoyance; it could indicate that your body is struggling with a potentially life-threatening condition. When in doubt, check it out. Make an appointment if these behaviours seem familiar.
Who Struggles with Sleep Apnea?
Overall, sleep apnea affects about 10% of Americans from children to the elderly. It is particularly common among overweight and obese middle-aged men where it affects up to 25% of these individuals. That’s because excess tissue in the throat area could be creating a physical obstruction for breath during sleep–men tend to carry extra weight around their neck and trunk, while women tend to carry extra weight around their midsection and hip area. It’s also partly genetic. Approximately 20-25% of people with apnea are of normal weight! If your airway passage is naturally smaller, this could result in sleep apnea. Scientists have noticed that smoking, drinking and some sleeping pills can make sleep apnea worse.
Get the Help You Need
When you make an appointment with your doctor, questionnaires and an overnight sleep study will help her determine whether you have sleep apnea. Treatment options will vary depending on the causes and/or severity of your condition. For some people, weight management or a dental device, worn while sleeping, can help address less severe sleep apnea. In more serious cases, a CPAP machine might be appropriate. This device relies on a simple mask, attached to a device that provides a gentle flow of air to splint open your airway while you sleep and allow you to breathe easier. No cause for alarm—these machines are used by millions of Americans to get a better night’s sleep. The payoffs are huge and often immediate: better sleep, better health, and the opportunity to feel rested, positive, and productive on a daily basis.