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- How many sleep apnea sufferers are there in the United States?
- What exactly is obstructive sleep apnea?
- How is it possible for my airway to just close while I sleep? What causes that?
- What should I do if I suspect that my partner, my children or I have sleep apnea?
- What are the possible consequences if I choose not to have sleep apnea diagnosed or treated?
- What are the treatment solutions for obstructive sleep apnea?
- What common nighttime symptoms might indicate that my partner or I have sleep apnea?
- What common daytime symptoms may indicate sleep apnea?
- What are the risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea?
- What are the benefits of undergoing treatment for sleep apnea?
- Is it possible for children to have sleep apnea?
- What symptoms should I look out for if I suspect that my kids have sleep apnea?
- Are there other kinds of sleep apnea?
Answer:There are an estimated 22 million Americans living with obstructive sleep apnea: that’s 5% to 10% of the population. But, the most shocking thing about those statistics is that 90% of these people haven’t even been diagnosed yet, which means they aren’t being treated for their problem.
Answer:Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is caused by a collapse of the airway while asleep, causing a cessation of breathing. These breathing pauses can last anywhere from seconds to longer than a minute! When the brain registers a lack of oxygen, it sends the body a shock signal to wake it up so that you can resume breathing. This disrupts your deep sleep patterns, leaving you feeling fatigued and exhausted during the day, even if you got into bed early the night before.
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Answer:There are a number of reasons this happens and the most common is an abundance of fatty tissue in the neck, as is typical of overweight people. The weight of this tissue applies pressure to the throat muscles, which, when relaxed due to sleep, can partially or completely block the airway. Extra tissue in the back of the throat can also be present in patients with a large tongue, tonsils or adenoids, as is common with children. Aging and the weakening of the muscles is another reason these throat muscles become lazy and collapse during sleep.
Answer: Because obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition, it needs to be diagnosed by a medical doctor, so if you suspect that you suffer from OSA, it’s vital that you go for medical evaluation. Nowadays there are new methods for diagnosis that don’t necessarily require you to go in for a sleep study. Additionally, OSA can be treated by specially trained dentists with the use of oral appliances or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices, which are designed to regulate your breathing at night.
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Question: What are the possible consequences if I choose not to have sleep apnea diagnosed or treated?
Answer: Sleep apnea does more than just disturb a good night’s rest! There are some potentially severe complications associated with this disorder and they include:
- High blood pressure,
- Heart attack and heart disease,
- Fatigue-related work and motor vehicle accidents,
- Depression and anxiety,
- Strain on interpersonal relationships,
- Overall, a substantially decreased quality of life.
For these reasons, it’s greatly advisable that you get evaluated if you suspect that you or your partner has sleep apnea.
Answer: The most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) devices or Positive Airway Pressure (PAP) therapy. This simply involves wearing a CPAP mask at night while you sleep, which provides a gentle flow of positive-pressure air. This regulates your breathing and prevents your airway from collapsing. PAP therapy addresses the immediate problems and symptoms of OSA, but long-term treatment success will require you to assess your lifestyle and possibly make the following changes:
- Lose weight with healthy eating and exercise, as being overweight is the predominant cause of OSA. In fact, most people can cease CPAP therapy once they’ve lost 10%-15% body fat.
- Avoid alcohol as it relaxes the muscles, causing the collapse of the airway during sleep.
- Avoid sedatives, hypnotics and smoking.
Answer:The most telltale symptom of sleep apnea is a cycle of heavy snoring punctuated with breathing pauses and then a loud choke, gasp or snort as you resume breathing again. Consistent heavy snoring is also an indicator of obstructive sleep apnea, however, since you are asleep while you’re doing it, you’ll need to ask your bed partner if they’ve noticed this to be a problem. Restless sleep and frequent bathroom visits are also signs.
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Answer: Since OSA effectively denies sufferers a good night’s rest, you may find yourself feeling lethargic, exhausted, forgetful and moody during the day, even though you slept through the night. Morning headaches, falling asleep during routine activities, poor concentration, low libido, impotence and irritability are also quite common.
This is where an important difference between the genders emerges: men and women tend to experience the symptoms of OSA differently. While men exhibit the typical nighttime symptoms mentioned above, women tend to complain more of the daytime symptoms of exhaustion, lethargy, anxiety and even depression.
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Answer:Being overweight, being older than 50, having a neck circumference of more than 17,5 inches, having a large tongue, tonsils or adenoids, alcohol abuse and smoking (inflames the airway) are all considered risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea.
Answer: Effective treatment of obstructive sleep apnea eliminates all the debilitating symptoms associated with this sleep disorder! So, those patients who commit themselves to their PAP therapy and who combine this with a healthy lifestyle should notice the following improvements:
- Increased attentiveness and energy
- Reduced irritability and moodiness
- Relief of morning headaches
- Improved memory
- Increased ability and desire to exercise (which aids in weight loss)
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower risk of heart attacks and strokes
- Improved performance at work and home
- Much better quality of life!
Answer: Yes, children can suffer from sleep apnea, especially those with an enlarged tongue, allergies, adenoids, malocclusion (bad bite) or tonsils. It’s just not as common a problem as it is with older adults.
Answer:In addition to daytime fatigue, falling asleep and poor school performance, children with sleep apnea can present with the following symptoms:
- Consistent loud snoring
- Strange sleeping positions
- Excessive sweating at night
- Night terrors
Answer: There are three kinds of sleep apnea, the most common being obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by electrical misfiring of the brain (forgetting to instruct you to breathe) rather than the mechanics of relaxing throat muscles, which is why it tends to present in patients who have experienced stroke, spinal injury, congestive heart failure, neurological disease, atrial fibrillation or brainstem injury. Mixed sleep apnea (MSA) is a combination of the two.
Learn More About the Different Kinds of Sleep Apnea
Links of Interest:
- Learn About Sleep Apnea
- Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Apnea Symptoms
- Weight Gain & Sleep Apnea
- Common Sleep Disorders
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