Sleep apnea, a Latin term and a serious and fairly common sleep disorder, means “without breath.” For patients with sleep apnea, the individual involuntarily stops breathing over and over during the night. This disorder can also cause episodes of another condition known as hypopnea or “slow breathing.” Hypopnea causes the patient to take very shallow breaths or abnormally slow breaths also often causing him to wake many times during the night resulting in unrestful sleep.
18 Million American Affected
Per the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute located in Bethesda, Maryland, pauses between breaths can last a few seconds to a few minutes, and can occur between 5 and 30 minute per hour, sometimes even more often. A pause in breathing followed by a loud snort or snore, or a sound described as “gasping” or “chocking” can signal an extremely severe condition of sleep apnea. The institute estimates that approximately 18 million adults are afflicted with some form of sleep apnea according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Symptoms of sleep apnea and its related conditions cause an individual's blood oxygen to drop as the carbon dioxide found in the blood rises; both dangerous conditions. One's heart rate can increase and the stops and starts in breathing disrupt sleep. Upon waking, the patient can experience headaches, extreme sleepiness, exhibit slow reaction time, and even suffer from vision problems.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea & Related Conditions
A home sleep studies do exist and are available to those who believe they may a sleep disorder. This study requires using a special sleep monitor to track your breathing, blood oxygenation, and movements during sleep. It's a small-scale way to replicate the kind of polysomnography that is performed in professional sleep laboratories. While this test may indicate the presence of a sleep disorder of some kind a more reliable result will come from a referral from your doctor to a sleep laboratory for a sleep study.
Physicians recommend a variety of treatments and courses of action depending on the severity of the condition. Recommendations include changes in behavior such as reducing caffeine intake, relaxing before bedtime and physical exercise. Specially fitted mouthpieces or dental devices as well breathing devices used at home during sleeping hours are most commonly recommended. Nasal sprays or decongestants can also reduce swelling. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) in which airflow is blocked during sleep prevents the patient from breathing properly. In severe cases, surgery is used to remove or reduce the obstruction which is causes the patient's airflow and allows for improved and more efficient breathing during sleep. Remedies are designed to allow the patient to breathe in a normal fashion while asleep which is all any of us really wants anyway: a good night of sleep.
Sara Lewis is an author who writes for several health blogs. If you wake up and feel like you haven't slept it could be sleep apnea. Find out more about this condition at http://fallingasleep.net/sleep-disorders/apnea.
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