The Impact of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent pauses in breathing as you sleep. These pauses can last for seconds or minutes, which are then followed by loud snorts or choking as you resume breathing normally. The condition is tough to diagnose since it only occurs while you sleep, and it is usually someone who shares a bed with you who notices your abnormal breathing patterns. Although you may not see that sleep apnea is affecting your ability to sleep soundly, it can significantly impact your alertness during the day and, if left undiagnosed, take a toll on your bodily health. When you stop breathing and suddenly resume inhalation, you are unknowingly taken out of deep sleep and placed into a lighter sleep cycle, which impacts how you feel during the day.
You will often notice the symptoms of sleep apnea when you are awake; you may feel sleepy even though you have received a full night’s rest. Additionally, you may have poor reaction times or blurred vision, which can be attributed to the many disruptions that sleep apnea causes. Because these symptoms are common for a variety of conditions, sleep apnea is not immediately thought of as the culprit. However, a misdiagnosis can cause the condition to progress, and the continual deprivation of oxygen to your body can create adverse effects.
Sleep apnea has been shown to lead to:
- Heart attack and stroke
- Memory loss
- Irregular heart beat
- Weight gain
Sleep apnea can also severely impact your attentiveness, which can lead to more driver and work-related accidents, putting your life and the life of someone else at risk. Although it is the leading cause of daytime fatigue, sleep apnea often remains undetected by medical professionals.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
The most common form of the condition is obstructive sleep apnea (or OSA), which occurs when the muscles in the airway become so relaxed that they collapse or become blocked, causing shallow and disrupted breathing. The other form of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, is much less common and occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles responsible for breathing, causing short pauses in breathing. Most of the patients who come into Dr. Kohani’s office for sleep apnea treatment are doing so for symptoms related to obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition, which means that treatment is usually life-long as well. Certain lifestyle habits like weight loss or dietary changes can alleviate some symptoms; however, certain factors cannot be controlled and require medical intervention to correct the condition. Sleep apnea is more common in men over the age of 40 and who tend to have sinus issues as a result of a deviated septum. Other factors include having a larger tongue or tonsils, heredity, and obesity.
Creating a Diagnosis
Because sleep apnea is so difficult to diagnose, tests often have to be performed in the form of a sleep study in a clinician’s office. The study measures how often these short pauses in breathing occur per hour and compare them to the symptoms you have been experiencing while awake.