Understanding Obstructive Sleep Apnea

You may have heard about sleep apnea in relation to snoring. While it’s true that people who suffer from this condition typically snore loudly, sleep apnea has many other symptoms.

If you suspect that you or a loved one might have sleep apnea, don’t wait to contact a medical professional. Physicians and dental specialists, such as ours at Better Sleep by Design, can help diagnose and treat your symptoms.

Here is what you need to know about sleep apnea.

People with Untreated Sleep Apnea have a:

96% increased chance of having a myocardial infarction/heart attack.
83% increased chance of having high blood pressure.
82% increased chance of having atrial fibrillation/arrhythmias/irregular heartbeat.
80% increased risk of heart failure / die in their sleep.
72% increased chance of having a stroke.

And the above are additive – with a history of 2 or more, the risks skyrocket.

What Should You Do If You Have Sleep Apnea?

I Wake Up Tired?

You go to bed early. You sleep in as late as possible. Unfortunately, for some reason, you never feel as though you’ve had a restful, rejuvenating night of sleep.

You may find that your fatigue makes it hard to concentrate during the day, and you don’t have as much energy as you used to have. You might even feel like you just can’t stay awake and fall asleep at odd times of the day.

While there may be many causes of waking up tired after a full night’s sleep, sleep apnea is a disorder you should consider as a cause of your fatigue. Because sleep apnea can lead to serious complications, you should contact a health care provider immediately if you suspect you might have this medical condition.

Better Sleep By Design are experts in obstructive sleep apnea. We can help you with a diagnosis and treatment so you can feel awake and energized again.

Why Does Sleep Apnea Cause Fatigue?

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by the muscles and tissues of the throat relaxing during sleep, causing full or partial restrictions of your airway. This blockage can make it hard to breathe. Patients who suffer from sleep apnea wake up multiple times each night, choking or gasping for air.

Each time you wake up is so brief that you’re unlikely to remember it. In fact, your partner might notice you waking up and gasping for breath more than you do. However, you might be waking up as often as 5 to 30 times each hour, all night long.

These frequent wake-ups make it almost impossible to get a good night’s rest.

When you sleep, your body goes through 90-minute sleep cycles and needs 4 to 6 of these cycles each night. If you have sleep apnea, you wake so frequently that your body isn’t able to get the sleep that it needs.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes someone to stop breathing frequently when sleeping. There are three types of sleep apnea.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the tissues in the throat relax during sleep, fully or partially obstructing airflow.
  • Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain improperly sending signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this sleep disorder. If you have this form of sleep apnea, your muscles relax while you inhale, blocking your airway. This decreases the oxygen in the blood. When your brain senses low oxygen levels, it sends a signal to wake you from sleep so you can reopen your airway.

The time that you are awake will be so brief that you’re unlikely to remember it happening, but your partner might notice a pause in your breathing followed by gasping or choking. This can happen as often as 5 to 30 times an hour throughout the night.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea?

One of the symptoms of sleep apnea is frequent pauses in breathing while sleeping, followed by brief periods of being awake and gasping for air. The airway obstruction also causes vibrations in the throat, leading to loud snoring.

Frequent waking and snoring can lead to other symptoms and complications. Many patients who struggle with sleep apnea feel extremely fatigued and irritable and may wake up with headaches or experience memory loss.

People with sleep apnea are also at a higher risk of heart complications and diabetes due to the periodic lack of oxygen and stresses on the body.

Finally, restless sleep and loud snoring can lead to relationship problems if one partner starts to sleep on the couch or in another room.

Who Is At Risk For Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone, including infants and children. However, here are the risk factors most associated with sleep apnea.

  • Overweight or obese
  • Thicker neck circumference
  • Narrow throat or enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Male
  • Older
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • Use of alcohol or sedatives
  • Smoking
  • Congestion from anatomical problems or allergies
  • Medical conditions such as high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, type 2 diabetes, and congestive heart failure