Does your sleeping partner complain that you snore? Do you doze off easily during the day, especially while driving? Do you start your day with fatigue or headaches? Any of these symptoms could be indications of sleep apnea, a condition that causes a sleeper to stop breathing for anywhere from a few seconds to more than a minute many times throughout the night. Men who are overweight and over the age of 40 are more likely to have the condition, but sleep apnea can affect both men and women at any age or weight. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you should know the following information.
First of all, the most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, and it occurs when the tissues inside the back of the mouth or throat obstruct the airway and prevent breathing. When you’re awake, your muscles are engaged to keep your throat open, but when you sleep, those muscles can relax and cause the airway to collapse. The resulting effort it takes to breathe causes snoring or pauses in breath.
Second, it’s important to know that sleep apnea can be serious. Not only does it prevent you – and possibly your spouse – from getting a restful night’s sleep, it can increase your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, arrhythmia, and sleep-related driving accidents. Let your doctor know if you’re having any of the symptoms listed above and schedule a sleep study to diagnose the problem and determine the appropriate treatment.
Fortunately, sleep apnea is easy to treat. The most common therapy is a continuous positive air pressure, or CPAP, machine. A mask fits over your nose and forces air into your nasal passages to keep the airway open. As awkward as it may sound, most people adapt quickly and learn to get a good night’s sleep while wearing the mask. For some people, surgery to remove excess tissue may also be an option.
Some people are able to improve their sleep apnea or decrease their risk of developing it by losing weight and getting more physically fit. Check out this article to learn more about battling sleep apnea.