If you’re waking up in the morning feeling unrested, dozing off during the day, or have noticed that you have lost interest in many things that you used to enjoy, you may be suffering from sleep apnea, a condition in which you stop breathing during sleep. Your risk is even higher if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you’re overweight, or if someone has told you that you snore loudly. Sleep apnea is so disruptive of the body’s systems that it is potentially deadly: it can increase your risk of dying—from any cause—by five times or more.
Sleep apnea can often go undiagnosed for a long period of time because it occurs while you’re sleeping. However, there are some symptoms you will likely notice that indicate you might be suffering from the disorder, such as:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Waking unrested
- Morning headaches
- Unexplained or chronic fatigue
- Loss of focus
- Loss of interest or drive
- Poor performance at work or school
- Frequent nighttime urination
- Difficulty staying asleep
In addition, if you sleep with someone, they may report that you stop breathing, experience snoring, or gasp or choke at night.
Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Because you have gotten by with sleep apnea for a while, you might think it’s not a big deal, but it can actually be very dangerous. It can contribute to your risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Heart attack
- Weight gain
- Impotence and other sexual dysfunction
- Car accidents
- Depression and other mood disorders
- Memory problems
See Dr. Firouzian discuss the dangers of snoring and sleep apnea on 10TV
Sleep apnea can lead to so many dangers because it is very disruptive to your sleep cycle. When breathing stops because of it, your brain is forced to partially awaken to resume breath. This is disruptive to the rest your body and brain need. It interferes with your ability to focus, your emotions, and your body’s basic regulatory systems, leading to metabolic disorders.
When your brain senses the lack of air, it also stimulates your heart to pump harder to increase oxygen supply. This leads to elevated blood pressure and other cardiovascular conditions.
Different Types of the Disorder
It’s important to understand that there are several types of sleep apnea. What sleep apnea treatment is right for you depends on the type of you have.
Sleep Disordered Breathing: Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) is a condition that most typically affects children when they don’t have a clear airway due to crooked teeth, thumb sucking, or a number of other conditions. The Healthy Start system aims to correct many of these issues as early as possible to not only correct sleep issues, but also to ensure a healthy smile.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common type. In OSA, your tissues cause your airway to close, cutting off your air supply. This usually occurs because of a combination of a narrow airway, excess tissue around the airway, and poor muscle tone exacerbated when the muscles relax during sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea: In central sleep apnea, your brain simply stops telling your body to breathe. This can be caused by a congenital brain problem, heart failure, or even a common sleep apnea treatment—CPAP. CPAP, by forcing air into your lungs, might weaken the impulse to breathe. Ironically, CPAP is the main treatment for the central type.