Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts again. If you snore and feel tired even after some hours of sleep, this is a serious sign that you might have apnea.
Normally people with sleep apnea still fight for fatigue and drowsiness even after seven hours of “sleep”, this is not an uncommon disease, and in fact affects more than 1 in 4 men over the age of 30, and around 5% of Australian population have sleep apnea.
Though as common as it is, the condition might go undiagnosed and untreated since firstly many people might not be aware of the fact that they have this problem, or they are not taking it seriously without understanding that it could potentially lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure and heart troubles.
Sleep apnea basically causes breathing to stop abruptly and frequently during sleep, causing loud snoring and daytime tiredness. This problem can affect anyone, but especially serious with older men who are a bit overweight.
The stop of breath could occur repeatedly, sometimes even as high as hundreds of times during the night.
Serious diseases such as hypertension, stroke, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, or diabetes are all problems rooted in sleep apnea.
The other diseases such as job impairment, work-related accidents, and motor vehicle crashes, or underachievements in children and adolescents, are all possibly related to sleep apnea.
Two types of sleep apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea mainly, obstructive and central:
Obstructive sleep apnea:
This is the common type of sleep apnea. It occurs as repetitive episodes of complete or partial upper airways blockage during sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the more common of the two. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs as repetitive episodes of complete or partial upper airway blockage during sleep. During apneic episodes, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder as the pressure increases to open the airways.
People usually resume breathing with a loud gasp or body jerk, and these episodes can interfere with sound sleep, reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs, and cause heart irregularities.
In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe due to instability in the respiratory control center. This type of apnea is related to the function of the nervous system.
Who gets sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea mostly occurs in men, about a quarter, and 10% of women. It happens among people of all ages, but especially obvious for the ones over the age of 50 and overweight.
Certain symptoms are common among the sleep apneas affected people, such as excessive weight, large neck and structural abnormalities, nasal obstruction, a low-hanging soft palate, or small jaw with an overbite.
What happens when you stop breathing?
When you stop breathing, your heart rate will drop and you are without oxygen. In this case, your involuntary reflexes cause you to startle awake and then your heart rate tends to pick up all of a sudden with rising blood pressures.
This is the whole process when you stop breathing and pick up again. But if this happens too often, then your body starts to experience chronic effects. Data suggests increased risk and danger when this happens more than 30 times per hour.
For example, the blood pressure goes up, then heart walls thicken due to increased pressure, and all these will change the structure of your heart. It tends to become stiffer and less flexible, with more fibrous cells growing in between cells.
What causes sleep apnea?
The most common type of obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses during sleep. On this note, this type of sleep apnea could be mitigated with a correctly ergonomic supported pillow that gives the spine the support to ease flowing breathing.
Morpheus Pillow helps in this regard because it has both sides of memory foam and high elastic foam, the former conforms to your head to relieve pressure and with the correct amount of 3D cushions inside the pillow to support the spine while you are back sleeping.
The high elastic firm side provides support for the neck and the head, keeping both of them aligned. It suits the side sleepers or those who prefer a firm pillow. Therefore, Morpheus Pillows helps with sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea is often seen in patients with heart failure or other formats of organ disease. It also appears in patients with central nervous system dysfunction. .
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Do pay attention to the following specific signs if you are not sure of whether you have sleep apnea or not. Normally people with this disease are not as clear as their bed partners, and they might be completely not aware of it.
So if you bed partner has the following, do pay attention, he or she might be having sleep apnea.
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
- Restlessness during the night and frequent awakening
- Sudden awakenings with gasping or choking.
- Trouble concentrating, forgetfulness or irritability.
- Mood disturbances (depression or anxiety).
- Night sweats.
- Frequent nighttime urination.
- Sexual dysfunction.
People with central sleep apnea usually experience recurrent awakenings or insomnia, although they might choke to wake up.
Symptoms in children may not be as obvious and include:
- Poor school performance.
- Sluggishness or sleepiness, often misinterpreted as laziness in the classroom.
- Daytime mouth breathing and swallowing difficulty.
- Unusual sleeping positions, such as sleeping on the hands and knees, or with the neck hyper-extended.
- Excessive sweating at night.
- Learning and behavioral disorders (hyperactivity, attention deficits).
What are the effects of sleep apnea?
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems including hypertension, stroke, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the muscle tissue of the heart), heart failure, diabetes, obesity, and heart attacks.
It’s likely that sleep apnea can cause arrhythmias and heart failure because if you have sleep apnea, you tend to have higher blood pressure. In fact, sleep apnea occurs in about 50% of people with heart failure or atrial fibrillation.
This is because sleep apnea can cause:
- Repeated episodes of oxygen lowering (what doctors call hypoxia).
- Changes in carbon dioxide levels.
- Direct effects on the heart due to pressure changes within the chest.
- Increased levels of markers of inflammation.
With the high prevalence of sleep apnea in cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure, we recommend you take it seriously as early as possible.
In terms of media expertise in how to diagnose sleep apnea and how to treat it properly, we hereby provide an article - how to tell if you have sleep apnea for your consultation.