A Not So Silent Killer – Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is characterized by pauses in breathing or low breathing during sleep. Apnoea is a Greek word that means “without breath.” A pause in breathing of at least 10 seconds, referred to as an apnoea, can occur up to hundreds of times per night causing interrupted sleep to the sufferer, with the sufferer more often than not, not even being aware of the condition and that they are being partly woken frequently throughout the night.

Medical experts have identified three types of the condition:

• Central Sleep Apnea
• Obstructive Sleep Apnea
• Mixed Sleep Apnea

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the proper signals to the breathing muscles resulting in the loss of breath. CSA is not very common and makes approximately 5% of those who suffer from the condition.

CSA can be caused by other medical problems, including but not limited to, stroke, encephalitis, Parkinson’s disease, bulbar poliomyelitis, and extreme obesity.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and occurs when the upper airway is obstructed. Obstructive apnea can be characterized by repeated lapses in breathing or extremely low breathing during sleep. A typical apnoea may last up to 45 seconds before the person momentarily wakes as breathing recommences with this being repeated many times per hour of disturbed sleep throughout the night.

OSA is typically caused by the soft tissue in the back of the throat to collapsing and obstructing the airway. The obstruction is usually associated with severe snoring. OSA can affect anyone but is far more prevalent in people who suffer from obesity. Sleep Apnea

Mixed or Complex Sleep Apnea (CompSA)

Complex sleep apnea is a combination of both types and is very uncommon. CompSA can occur as a result of untreated OSA that has gone on for a long period of time.

Impact of Sleep Apnea

The impact of sleep apnea ranges from daytime fatigue to high blood pressure, heart attack, and even death. When the body does not receive adequate rest it does not function properly. People who suffer from it can have the following symptoms:

• Excessive tiredness/drowsiness
• Mental and physical fatigue
• Depression
• Irritability and mood changes
• Unexplained weight gain
• Memory lapses
• Inability to concentrate
• Severe snoring

Sleep is so central to the human body that the affects are felt throughout every aspect of a person’s life including mental, physical and emotional.

Mental and Emotional Impact

Lack of sleep causes the brain not to function properly. People constantly report not being able to think clearly and forgetting important details. The frustration of being tired and forgetful can cause anxiety, poor judgment, and depression. People who suffer from sleep apnea often slip into bouts of depression causing trouble on the job, in relationships and robbing them of happiness.

The mental and emotional strain is often seen in the marriages of those who deal with the disorder. Often times the partner is fatigued and tired because they are kept awake as well. It can also affect emotional and physical intimacy especially for those who have to sleep in separate locations.

Physical Impact

When the body does not get adequate rest it releases stress chemicals into the body causing the immune system to break down. People who have this condition are often plagued with sickness and more prone to disease because their body’s immune system is weakened.

A lack of sleep has been clinically proven to increase the odds of being overweight, suffering a stroke or heart attack, having high blood pressure and hypertension, and migraine headaches.

Since fatigue is a major side effect it is harder for people to heal. A cold that may take the average person 2-3 days to get over may take someone with e condition 5-7 days to overcome because of lack of rest. People also report having more post-surgery complications and longer healing times because of a lack of sleep. It is recommended that anyone who suffers from sleep apnea report it to their health care provider before having any medical procedure.