Apnea literally means without breath in Greek. Sleep apnea is a sleeping condition that causes involuntary cessation of breathing during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive- This type of apnea occurs when the airway becomes blocked, usually by the soft tissue at the back of throat collapsing during sleep.
- Central- With this type of apnea the airway is not physically blocked. Instead, the brain fails to send the signals to the muscles needed to breathe.
- Mixed- As the name implies, this type of apnea is a combination of obstructive and central. With each cessation episode, the brain causes the sleeper to rouse to signal breathing to resume. The patient’s sleep is usually extremely fragmented and results in poor quality.
Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA is the most common of the three. There are differences in the cause of each type, but all include repeated cessation of breathing throughout the night, sometimes up to hundreds of times for a minute or longer. Often, the sleeper is unaware of this condition because they don’t fully wake up during the episodes.
If sleep apnea remains untreated, it can have severe and life-threatening consequences including heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, increased risk of car accidents caused by sleepiness at the wheel, depression, and diabetes.
If the sleeper isn’t aware of the cessation episodes how do they find out they have a sleep disorder?
The commonest symptom of sleep apnea is extremely loud snoring, often so loud that the bed partner cannot stand it and cannot sleep in the same room. Other indicators are obesity, waking up out of breath, waking up with a dry mouth or a headache, and persistent daytime sleepiness. None of these symptoms also diagnose the condition, the only definitive way to diagnose sleep apnea is with an overnight sleep study done at a sleep lab or with an at-home sleep test.
Sleep apnea is extremely common, in fact, it is as common as type 2 diabetes. It can occur at any age, gender, or weight; however, the risk factors include being over the age of 40, being male, and being overweight. It is thought to affect more than 18 million Americans, but because of the lack of knowledge about the condition, it remains undiagnosed and untreated.
Fortunately, Sleep Apnea Is Easily Diagnosed And Treated
If you have any symptoms of sleep apnea, or your bed partner complains of your snoring, you should talk to your doctor. Your doctor will either send you to a sleep disorder clinic for an overnight sleep study or order an at-home sleep study. In both of these studies, you are hooked up to a machine that monitors different aspects of your health while you sleep.
- With polysomnography done at a sleep clinic the equipment monitors your lung, heart, and brain activity, along with your breathing patterns, limb movements, and blood oxygen saturation.
- At-home sleep studies are simplified tests that monitor your heart rate, breathing and airflow patterns, and blood oxygen levels.
For many patients. An at-home sleep study is much more convenient and allows the patient to follow their usual bedtime routine resulting in more accurate results. Some people have a hard time sleeping at a sleep clinic especially with all of the monitors attached. The results are much more detailed with polysomnography, but if the patient can’t get comfortable enough to sleep, the test is not useful.
If the results of your overnight sleep study are abnormal, your doctor will likely prescribe CPAP therapy. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure. The device blows a constant stream of air into your airway to prevent it from collapsing. This treatment is highly effective, and can even reverse the effects of leaving the condition untreated for so long.
Take Care Of Your Sleep Apnea Equipment
If you have a sleep apnea machine, it is crucial to keep it clean. Using soap and water can be a hassle, and that is why companies like VirtuOx have come up with CPAP cleaning devices that make the process much more straightforward. The CPAP cleaning device from VirtuOx is called VirtuCLEAN and uses ozone to clean and sanitize your equipment in 30 minutes. All you do is plug the unit into your CPAP machine and let it do its thing. To learn more about this device,visit our website.
If you suspect that you may have a sleeping disorder, don’t be afraid to talk to your doctor. Treatment is highly effective, and leaving the condition untreated is dangerous for your health.