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Is Sleep Apnea Ruining Your Life

December 1st, 2009

Do you wake up in the morning feeling just as tired as when you went to sleep? Have you been told that you snore loudly and seem to stop breathing while sleeping? Then it is possible that you are suffering from Sleep Apnea. Read on to find out more about the symptoms and diagnosis for this condition.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnoea or as it is more commonly known as Sleep Apnea, is a relatively common problem. It causes broken sleep patterns that usually lead to increased tiredness and decreased awareness in waking hours, morning headaches or a dry throat when you wake up.

The clinical definition of an apnea is a cessation of breath that lasts for at least 10 seconds. The medical condition called “Sleep Apnea” is a condition where sufferers stop breathing and have repeated apneas over extended periods of time while sleeping.

The most common form is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA) and this is where the airway has collapsed or becomes blocked during sleep. When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage usually causes loud snoring which is nearly always associated with OSA. During an apnea, where breathing stops altogether, the concentration of oxygen in your blood drops, as your lungs are not receiving any fresh air or oxygen to replenish your blood in exchange for carbon dioxide, until it reaches dangerously low levels that are low enough to trigger your brain to disturb your sleep. The associated reflex action helps tighten the upper airway muscles and open your windpipe.

Normal breathing then starts again, often with a body jerk, loud snort or choking sound and usually without you even being aware of it having happened.

Factors that are known to increase the risk for OSA include a family history of sleep apnoea, a large neck, a recessed chin, male sex, abnormalities in the structure of the upper airway, smoking, alcohol use, age and excess weight.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea happens more often in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone.


How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

There is no blood or other post event test for diagnosing the condition, and as such it is normally first diagnosed as a result of comments or complaints from your sleeping partners or family who have become concerned about your chronic snoring, choking or gasping during your sleep as well as the extended periods where you stop breathing altogether while asleep.

Sleep Apnea can be a life threatening condition with the reduced sleep quality and the frequent drops in the blood oxygen levels during the apnea triggering the release of stress hormones. These hormones, among other issues, raise your heart rate and increase your risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases and associated problems.

Less obvious but more serious medical problems that can be aggravated or caused by the condition include weight gain, impotency, memory lapses, depression, irritable mood swings and personality charges. Sleep apnea could be having a major impact on your life and overall well being without you even being aware of it, in fact it could be ruining your life!

So What Should You Do?

Your partner is worried about your breathing or snoring, you continually feel tired during the day and you suspect that you may have a sleeping disorder, what should you do next?

The first step is to arrange an appointment with your family medical practitioner to discuss your concerns. You practitioner will probably then arrange an appointment for you to see a Sleep Specialist and maybe have a sleep study undertaken.

Prior to your appointment it usually helps to compile a sleep diary for at least a few days or longer if possible with you or more likely your sleep partner recording how you sleep, if you are having trouble breathing during the night, any noticeable gaps in breathing, choking or gasping events, your snoring, how loud it is as well how your sleeping position impacts on it, and how you feel in the morning when you wake up and then during the day.

You should also record any other irregularities that may be noticed such as restlessness or leg movements during sleeping and even periods during the day where you may seem to fall asleep or fell really tired.

Having a visual recording of yourself while sleeping may also be useful to help your Sleep Specialist with their initial diagnosis.

Your Sleep Specialist will normally do an examination of your throat for physical reasons for your snoring and apnea’s as well as to assess your suitability to the various treatment options. If your specialist suspects that you may be suffering from Sleep Apnea they will usually request that you have a sleep study done to record your sleeping habits and manner in a controlled and monitored environment.

This is usually the first step on the path to diagnosis and eventually treatment of sleep apnea. The risks associated with failure to act, if you are a Sleep Apnea sufferer, are too great to ignore and should not be taken lightly. If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder such as Sleep Apnea take steps now, get yourself assessed, it could be a life saving action (yours).

As Featured On EzineArticles


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