What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea is the most common sleeping disorder seen in the sleep center. It literally means not, “a”, breathing, “pnea”, for a minimum of 10 seconds during sleep. There are multiple forms and severities of this disorder but all forms of this disorder can lead to potentially dangerous complications. Patients with this disorder are rarely aware that they stop breathing during the course of the night and are mostly witnessed by those around them.
- Why Do I Snore? –Snoring is a sign of the restriction of air flow in the mouth, nose or throat. The soft tissues in the back of your throat are beginning to fall back into the throat partially closing the airway.
- Why Do I Feel Tired During the Day? – Apnea can cause multiple arousals from your sleep causing you not get the proper “deep” sleep that your body and mind need to feel refreshed and awake throughout the entire day.
- Why Do I Frequently Forget Things? – Because of the frequent awakens during your sleep your brain will feel sluggish. Problems with memory especially your short term memory will be affected by the loss of restorative sleep.
- Why Do I Have Difficulty Falling Asleep? – The closing or restriction in the throat, nose, or back of the mouth can cause you to prolong the light stages of sleep giving you the sensation of not falling asleep. Taking sleeping pills can make sleep apnea worse and should be discussed with a Sleep Medicine Physician.
- Why Do I Have Morning Headaches? – While there are several factors that contribute to having headaches, the most common explanation to why people with sleep apnea have headaches in the morning is: the buildup of carbon dioxide and loss of oxygen when you stop breathing causes your blood vessels. surrounding the brain to dilate causing pain. After the chemicals in your blood have a chance to normalize the headache should dissipate.
- Why Have People Told Me My Personality Has Changed? – The lack of the deeper stages of sleep, which rest your mind and body, cause you to become overly tired and thus become “grumpy” and less tolerant of everyday situations.
- Why Do I Have Choking, Gasping, or Snorting During My Sleep? – When your airway closes the body has to violently open the airway during your sleep.
- Why Does My Body Have Frequent Movements During My Sleep? – The body will violently jerk or move in order to wake the brain long enough to open the airway.
- Why Do I Frequently Urinate During Sleep? – While research is still being performed to better explain the association between nighttime urination and sleep apnea; it is believed to be caused by the lack of oxygen in the blood stream that causes your heart to race. When this happens your heart produces a hormone-like protein that tells the body to get rid of sodium and water thus urination.
What Could Happen If I Have Sleep Apnea and Don’t Get Treatment?
- Automobile Accidents – Due to Excessive daytime sleepiness, people have been reported as falling asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle or making poor judgments while driving that lead to several accidents per year in the United States. Drowsy driving is currently being considered for being placed into legislation making it a crime to drive while drowsy in several states.
- High Blood Pressure – During sleep your blood pressure should decrease; people with sleep apnea tend to increase in blood pressure during sleep. This is believed to carry on into the daytime.
- Heart Arrhythmias – People that suffer from sleep apnea tend to have an increased occurrence of heart beat abnormalities.
- Coronary Artery Disease – There is evidence of increased risk of coronary artery disease even at low levels of sleep apnea.
- Congestive Heart Failure – It has been found that people with sleep apnea negatively impact their ventricular function in the heart. Patients that are treated for sleep apnea tend to have improved results in their heart function.
- Stroke – People that have sleep apnea are at a higher risk for strokes secondary to several blood clotting factors that occur during sleep apnea.
How Sleepy Are You?
There is a quick test that you can take and bring to your doctor if you suspect yourself of having sleep apnea. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a test used by sleep professionals to determine the likelihood of sleep disordered breathing. Just because you don’t have a high score on this test doesn’t mean you don’t have a sleeping problem. You should always discuss your problems sleeping with your doctor especially if someone has witnessed you stop breathing during your sleep.