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 become very shallow. Sleep apnea is very dangerous because each pause, called by doctors an apnea, can range in duration from 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, insomnia or fatigue – 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.

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11 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.

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

  4. Marie Watson May 16, 2016 at 6:43 pm #

    I didn’t realize that sleep apnea is such a dangerous condition. I had no idea that someone with sleep apnea could have totally normal breathing patterns while they are awake. Since that makes it harder to diagnose, it makes sense that it is such a scary condition. I would think that it is important to have the condition diagnosed so you can properly treat it.

  5. Hazel Owens May 26, 2016 at 4:06 am #

    I didn’t realize that sleep apnea was so serious! It’s terrifying that someone could stop breathing for minutes at a time multiple times an hour. I’ll be more aware of my husband’s sleeping patterns to make sure he’s breathing the whole night. Thanks for all the information!

  6. Stephen July 17, 2016 at 3:47 pm #

    I had no idea how bad my sleep apnea was until someone recorded me. I was expecting to hear snoring. There was plenty of that.. but the scary part is the gasping for air. It’s hard to imagine that has been going on every night for years and I had no idea. Unfortunately it’s probably gotten worse as my weight has nudged higher year by year. But it was so hard to motivate myself to try and lose weight because I was so tired all the time… which only made things worse! A vicious cycle. As you say.. losing weight is the top cure! My doctor has been after me for years to start losing it, and it’s reached the point where I don’t have much of a choice. No one wants to have to sleep with a mask on their face for the rest of their life.

  7. jack May 23, 2017 at 9:45 am #

    Both snoring and sleep apnea are caused by airway obstructions during sleep; sleep apnea results in breathing interruptions during sleep, leading to a decreased oxygen supply to the brain and heart.

  8. Theordore Winston October 10, 2017 at 10:39 am #

    I have a roommate and I think he may be having some symptoms of sleep apnea. I learned that it is common in overweight persons which actually makes sense. I’m concerned that he might be needing to get checked by a professional. It is very alarming to know that sleep apnea is a silent killer I really thought it’s really just normal for a person who snores. Thanks.

  9. Sharon November 19, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

    sleep apnea is a serious problem, and I thank you for covering this and giving me so much information that I can follow through with.
    Sharon recently posted…Which type of bedding is best? Standard US & CA mattress sizes.My Profile

  10. Douglas November 23, 2017 at 5:06 pm #

    Thanks for the blog. I didn`t know that sleep apnea could be so disastrous and could lead to death. I am wondering if we would not have read this blog and something troubling could have happened to us then what we could have done to counter that.

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