The Impact of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, or simply sleep apnea, is a sleeping disorder where a person’s breathing patterns slow down or becomes very shallow. Sleep apnea is very dangerous because each pause, called by doctors an apnea, can range in duration from, at the very least ten seconds to as long as several minutes.

Sleep Apnea Is Commonly Found in People Who SnoreThis is a serious health concern because brain cells cannot tolerate long periods of oxygen deprivation. And this is precisely the risk people with sleep apnea are subjected to since they aren’t breathing for as long as minutes. In fact, death can result if an apnea is long enough. If all this isn’t worrisome enough, a sleep apnea sufferer can experience five to thirty or more apneas in a single hour. This oxygen starvation can lead to hypertension, heart disease, mood or memory problems, sexual dysfunction, and of course exhaustion from frequently disturbed sleep.

Sleep Apnea is Often a Hidden Danger

More than 18 million adult Americans have sleep apnea, and it is frequently found in children as well, particularly those who snore. What makes sleep apnea such a silent killer is the fact that the sufferer is not aware he or she has a breathing problem when he or she is awake. In fact, the person’s breathing patterns may be very normal when the person is awake. When they are asleep, they are not, obviously, aware of their problem.

Interestingly enough, sleep apnea sufferers don’t become aware of their problem even after their apnea wakes them up from their sleep. This is the hidden danger of sleep apnea that makes it such a killer. It would take a loved one sharing the same bed as the sufferer to notice and inform the sufferer of his or her abnormal breathing patterns during sleep. Sometimes a sleep apnea test is done when a patient complains to their doctor of snoring, or insomnia – another way that a sleep apnea diagnosis can occur.

Brain Activity During Sleep Apnea

The main reason why there aren’t more people dying of the oxygen deprivation caused by sleep apnea is an automatic process in the brain. When a person stops breathing, the level of carbon dioxide in that person’s bloodstream increases. Chemoreceptors found in the blood detect the high carbon dioxide levels and these chemoreceptors send triggers to the apnea sufferer’s brain. The brain then wakes up the body so the person can breathe oxygen. This might result in a startled response, and the person might wake up gasping for air. Once the proper oxygen levels are reached, the sufferer will then go back to sleep.

An apnea sufferer goes through this process several times in the span of one night. It is no wonder many apnea sufferers don’t feel rested, or feel weak after having ‘slept’ a full eight hours.

Sleep Apnea Is More Common in Overweight People

One of the most common causes of sleep apnea is obstruction. Usually this is found in people who are very overweight. Their respiratory tract is wrapped by so much fat or tissue that their breathing pattern during sleep is obstructed. In terms of impact, people with sleep apnea often feel tired, irritable, and can experience memory loss and lack of attentiveness. In many cases, the impact on sleep apnea sufferers is the same as people with insomnia.

Sleep Apnea Diagnosis

The biggest challenge with sleep apnea is getting diagnosed. Since you’re sleeping when it strikes, there is no way for you to tell for certain that you’re suffering from this disorder. It is a good idea to get someone to observe you, or to keep a log or journal of your sleeping patterns. There are also sleep monitoring devices now available that can help you identify frequent disturbances in your sleep, even if you don’t remember them in the morning.

CPAP machine to treat Sleep ApneaIf you have a reason to believe you may be suffering from sleep apnea, get tested for central or obstructive apnea soon so your physician can recommend practical solutions. Sleep apnea can be dangerous, and always impacts quality sleep, which we know is one of many factors which support losing weight.

Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed by wearing a medical monitor during a full night’s sleep.

Losing Weight is the Top Cure

If it turns out that you have a positive diagnosis of sleep apnea, side sleeping, a change in pillows, dental appliances, a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, or even minor upper airway surgery may be options, depending on the severity. Lifestyle changes, particularly weight loss, can also assist or resolve sleep apnea problems. It is also helpful for those diagnosed with sleep apnea to avoid alcohol and smoking.

In fact, weight loss is the primary method for curing sleep apnea – other methods (except surgery) only treat symptoms.

About DrBruce

Dr Bruce Katsura believes that weight loss can be fast, safe and sustainable, if it is supported and supervised by a physician, and involves certain lifestyle changes. Those include learning about healthy eating and making small changes in daily habits. Our clients lose up to 30 pounds in 30 days, and most keep the weight off. Sign up for your free initial consultation today.

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4 Responses to The Impact of Sleep Apnea

  1. mrsbrodt June 3, 2014 at 9:39 pm #

    Thanks for the great information. My uncle has sleep apnea and it is so bad that my aunt has to move to another room at night to sleep. My aunt was under the impression that once you have sleep apnea that you can’t get rid of it. I will let her know that my uncle might to be able to get help through your weight loss treatment. She might even get her spare bedroom back. Thanks again.

    • DrBruce June 6, 2014 at 9:40 pm #

      You’re welcome. Sleep apnea is definitely not always a permanent condition. Your uncle needs to consult with a physician who can advise him on the best course of action for his particular situation.

  2. oraclemay June 10, 2014 at 1:02 pm #

    I have to say that I had no idea this was such a serious issue and that it could actually cause death. Once again, I see that this is a common problem with those that are overweight and that the top cure is weight loss. I find the side effects and medical conditions that can be the cause of sleep apnea quite shocking.

  3. Sam Walker August 2, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    I didn’t know sleep-apnea can be fatal. this is something that people should pay more attention too. Sleep-apnea is more common than we think it is, I think that the reason why people don’t take it seriously is because they are not educated regarding this matter. Since the main cause of this condition is being overweight this can also serve as a motivation for people to lose wight and be healthier. This information is something that I’ll definitely keep in mind and share with my family and friends. Thank you so much for this.

    Regards,
    Sam Walker
    Sam Walker recently posted…Chest Congestion Relief – Home Remedies, OTC and Prescription SolutionsMy Profile

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