What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It occurs in two main types: obstructive--when throat muscles relax, and central--when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Signs and symptoms for sleep apnea
The most common signs and symptoms are: excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, observed episodes of breathing cessation curing sleep, abrupt awakening accompanied by shortness of breath, awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat, morning headache or insomnia. In obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles in the back of the throat--supporting the soft palate, uvula, tonsils and tongue--relax and the airway narrows or closes when breathing in and breathing momentarily stops. This may lower blood oxygen levels. The brain senses the inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so you can reopen your airway. The awakening is usually so brief that you don't remember it. You can awaken with transient shortness of breath that corrects itself quickly within one or two deep breaths. You may make a snorting, choking or gasping sound. This pattern can repeat itself 5 to 30 times or more each hour, all night long. These disruptions impair your ability to reach the desired deep, restful phases of sleep, but many people still think they have slept well. In central sleep apnea, which is much less common, the brain fails to transmit signals to our breathing muscles. This is often the result of heart disease and sometimes stroke.
Risk factors for sleep apnea
Certain factors put you at risk: excess weight, neck circumference greater than 17 inches, high blood pressure, a narrowed airway, being male or over the age of 65, having a family history of the disorder, use of alcohol or other CNS depressants, or smoking.
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition, with the following complications: Cardiovascular--sudden drops in blood oxygen strain the system and increase the risk of high blood pressure two to three times, stroke, atrial fibrillation, congestive heart failure or sudden death. Daytime fatigue--drowsiness, irritability, depression and poor performance. Post-surgery complications due to breathing problems may result from undiagnosed sleep apnea. Bed partners of people who snore are sleep deprived as well. People with sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings, frequent urination at night and impotence.
Source: Mayo Clinic
Robert G. Tupac, DDS, FACP, Inc., Diplomate, American Board of Prosthodontics (661) 325-1275 | www.drtupac.com 5060 California Ave., #170, Bakersfield, CA 93309