Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that affects millions of people around the world. Sufferers of sleep apnea often wake up during the night because they can’t breathe properly, causing them to snore or groan. The underlying cause of sleep apnea is unclear but sleep apnea syndrome is similar to narcolepsy, which is a sleeping disorder characterized by cataplexy, a sudden involuntary jerking of the muscles during sleep.
Sleep apnea affects children and adults equally. It affects both males and females equally.
Sleep apnea occurs because of the obstruction of one of the upper airways in the neck. When one of the lower airways becomes blocked, the tissues inside the airway collapse, blocking the airway. This causes the muscles in the throat and upper airway to relax, the lower airway becomes obstructed and oxygenated blood flows backward through the airway, thus waking the sufferer.
Sleep apnea can occur for a number of reasons. For some people, it is caused by abnormalities in the inner ear, for others, it is due to smoking or other environmental factors such as noise pollution, sleep deprivation, multiple sclerosis, and obesity. It can also occur after an injury to the upper airway or from repeated surgery.
Sleep apnea can be present as a discrete symptom or as a chronic medical condition. A sufferer might not feel tired at all and have periods of sleep throughout the day. The main symptoms of sleep apnea are waking during the night and feeling tired the next day.
Sleep apnea occurs when the brain is no longer able to signal the body to breathe normally. The brain will then send signals to the breathing muscles, telling them to activate and pump more oxygenated blood into the body, in order to sustain the breathing process. Unfortunately, this cannot keep up with the extra demand of the brain.
Without the normal sleep cycle, the brain continues to function, but it is in a constant state of being active. This contributes to lethargy and fatigue during the day. It also causes daytime drowsiness, irritability, depression, and behavioral problems.
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you should consult your doctor. In most cases, the cause of the condition is obvious. However, sometimes it is difficult to determine the cause of the condition, so a specialist can do an eye test and an MRI scan.
The doctor can prescribe a therapy, which will aim to increase the amount of oxygenated blood going into the brain during sleep and help decrease the effects of the sleep apnea syndrome. Certain medications, including certain antibiotics, might also be prescribed to help alleviate sleep apnea.
Some symptoms associated with sleep apnea are listed below. Other conditions may also result in other symptoms. Once you have a proper diagnosis, it will be easier to work out which type of sleep apnea is occurring.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is best to visit your doctor for evaluation and to ensure that they are not part of the early stages of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can have serious consequences, particularly if left untreated.