Have you ever been accused of snoring by your spouse? Have your kids ever recorded your not-so-silent ZZZs for a good laugh? Sure, we might believe that snoring only really affects those who are around us when we hit the sack every night, but the truth is a little more unsettling. While we may take for granted that snoring is completely normal, it can actually be a sign of some pretty serious health conditions. If you find your hubby or kids grumbling about your late-night rumblings, it may be time to get checked out! The most prevalent cause of snoring is sleep apnea, a condition that affects an estimated five to 15 percent of adults, and can lead to potentially harmful consequences. For more information on sleep apnea, check out the following information.
Simply put, sleep apnea interrupts your normal breathing patterns during sleep. Especially when it goes untreated, it can create breathing pauses that last anywhere between 10 to 20 seconds, and can occur hundreds of times in one night. This can cause shallow breathing during sleep, and may also jolt you out of your normal sleeping patterns. Typically, if you suffer from sleep apnea, you will spend most of your nights in a light, shallow sleep rather than a deeper, more restorative sleep. This may result in a loss of energy, mental alertness, and overall productivity throughout the day. You may also experience sleepiness during the day, slower reflexes, and increased risk of accidents. For more consequences of lack of sleep, click here.
Long-term chronic sleep deprivation can have some very serious consequences. People who allow their sleep apnea to go untreated are more prone to serious health problems over time, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and weight gain. However, sleep apnea works both ways: If you are overweight, or already suffer from heart disease or high blood pressure, you are at an increased risk for chronic sleep deprivation. Embracing a healthy lifestyle and treatments from your doctor will go a long way in helping you get your conditions under control.
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There are 3 primary types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is the most common type of chronic sleep deprivation. It occurs when the soft tissue at the base of your throat relaxes over your airway during sleep and prevents you from breathing regularly. This causes you to snore loudly.
- Central sleep apnea: This type of sleep apnea is much less common, and it involves the central nervous system. When the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing, then a breathing pause is created.
- Complex sleep apnea: Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Sleepers with this condition make no effort to breathe during episodes, as if their brains were not issuing breathing commands to the lungs.
There are several ways to treat sleep apnea. For mild sleep apnea, doctors often recommend lifestyle changes and mouthpieces. Lifestyle changes include, but are not limited to:
- Avoiding alcohol, as it makes it harder for the throat to remain open during sleep.
- Weight loss, especially if you are overweight or obese.
- Sleeping on your side instead of your back to keep your throat open.
- Using nasal sprays or allergy medicines to keep your nasal passages open at night.
- Quit smoking.
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Breathing devices may also be employed for cases of severe sleep apnea. A CPAP machine, or continuous positive air pressure machine, gently blows air into your throat to keep your airways open. Finally, surgery is another option for people who suffer from severe cases of chronic sleep deprivation. Surgery can widen the breathing passage by reducing the amount of excess tissue, or resetting the lower jaw altogether.
If you are ready to finally get a solid night's sleep so you can get back on track and enjoy your life, then it is time to reach out and receive treatment! Remember that you cannot diagnose sleep apnea on your own, so a quick trip to your doctor is an essential step in getting help! If you let your sleep apnea go untreated, you could be putting yourself at risk for some of the above-mentioned conditions. Keep yourself healthy by getting routine physicals and making time for those essential tests. For more information on sleep apnea, check out our sources: CNN, Helpguide.org, WebMD , American Sleep Apnea Association, National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.