When someone experiences sleep apnea (pronounced AP-nee-uh) he or she may unexpectedly pause from breathing or breathe shallowly during sleep. If you experience this condition, you may pause breathing for from a few seconds to minutes. This unnatural way to breathe might happen 30 times or more an hour. After the episode ends, you typically start to breathe normally again, sometimes making a loud snort or choking sound.
The people who hear you temporarily stop breathing while you sleep probably feel alarmed. This is for good reason. The temporary lack of breathing occurs because your airway either collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. Either of these situations cause you to pause from breathing at a normal rate or cause you to breath shallowly. Sounds frightening, doesn’t it?
Most People Feel Clueless About Their Sleep Apnea
Because your breathing stops while you sleep, you may be clueless you are experiencing this life-threatening condition. It is loved ones who notice something seems wrong. Snoring typically occurs because a tiny bit of air is escaping past your collapsed airway or airway blockage. That air escape causes the snoring sound.
Central Sleep Apnea
Another type of sleep apnea, called Central Sleep Apnea, occurs due to your brain sending incorrect breathing signals to your breathing muscles. If you’ve been diagnosed with this disorder, you make no effort to breathe for brief periods.
Sleep Studies – A Useful Diagnostic Tool
If you are experiencing chronic tiredness, high blood pressure, have had a heart attack, stroke, diabetes or are very overweight, and your family says you snore or stop breathing while you sleep, you may want to visit your doctor for a sleep study. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk or worsen present heart failure conditions. It can also worsen present arrhythmias (pronounced ah-rith-me-ahs), also called irregular heartbeats, or cause you to start having an irregular heartbeat.
Excessive daytime tiredness can increase your chances of falling asleep at work or behind the wheel while driving. For long haul truck drivers, you may think regular tiredness is just part of your job. Drinking too much coffee or caffeinated beverages to stay awake may be masking your sleep disorder.
Do you work long hours at your job? Often skip eating nutrition-dense food? Drink insufficient water throughout the day? Skip regular exercise? Feel tired or fall asleep at your desk? These things can all be either aggravating undiagnosed sleep apnea or evidence that you have sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea is a Chronic Condition
Because sleep apnea is a chronic condition, it requires long-term management. Did you know that many heart attacks and strokes occur at night? Dr. Susan Redline of Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s hospital confirms this fact in The Heartbeat Study. See the following YouTube video to learn more about this study. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=65dFdwmE4Dk
You can do many things to effectively manage sleep apnea. The first step to identifying if you have sleep apnea is to ask your family members if you snore.
If your family members confirm that you do snore, it is no laughing matter. In fact, it could save your life if you take the news as a warning about your health.
Your family members love you and want you to be here for a long, long time. If you regularly snore, it may be time to talk with your doctor. A medical professional can prescribe solutions that work for effectively coping and working with sleep apnea.
Dr. Susan Redline of Harvard Medical School/Brigham and Women’s Hospital sleep apnea research