Sleep apnea is a disorder with potentially serious consequences. It causes a person to experience interrupted breathing while he or she is asleep. Those with this disorder often stop breathing continuously throughout the night. Certain individuals who have participated in studies at sleep apnea centers have found that they unknowingly stopped breathing hundreds of times in an eight hour period. Fortunately, treatments are available for this disorder.
There are two kinds of the disorder, which are referred to as central or obstructive. The latter is the more common, but both have detrimental side effects. The obstructive form of the disorder is characterized by partial or complete blockage in the person’s upper airway. Breathing typically resumes with a jerk of one’s body or a loud gasping sound. This type of sleep apnea can be the result of various factors, such as obesity, allergies, asthma, a deviated septum, cardiac disease, poor positioning while sleeping, or pulmonary disorders.
Those suffering from central sleep apnea do not have obstructions, but rather they are experiencing a problem in their central nervous system. Their brains do not send the appropriate signals to their muscles, and therefore their respiratory systems do not properly function during the night. It is not yet known why the central nervous system malfunctions this way in some individuals.
Interestingly, the condition is more prevalent in males than females. Research indicates that the disorder afflicts one out of every ten women and one out of every four men. However, the reason for this is not yet known. It is especially common in obese individuals, and typically manifests for the first time after one has reached the age of 40.
Symptoms are often noticed by family members before the patient himself or herself discovers that a problem exists. For example, one of the most commonly experienced side effects is excessive snoring. Couples sometimes report that the partner who has the disorder frequently jolts awake at regular intervals during the night, even though the patient does not realize he or she is doing so.
There are many devices that can be used by those who suffer from this disorder in order to ensure a good night’s sleep. These include BPAP masks and similar devices that help to keep the airway clear and opened when one is asleep. However, it is important to seek medical evaluation before using such equipment to treat the condition.
In certain cases, procedures can be performed to trim the soft palate, and subsequently lessen the patient’s symptoms. This largely depends on the type of sleep apnea from which one is suffering, as well as his or her overall health. There are also simple treatments for the disorder, such as losing weight and positioning oneself better prior to falling asleep.
Heart rhythm irregularities and lack of oxygen to the organs are two of the most serious side effects of sleep apnea. For this reason, seeking help at sleep apnea centers is a wise course of action. Anyone who feels he or she may be suffering from this disorder should schedule an appointment with a licensed health care practitioner without delay.
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