Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder defined as a disruption of breathing while asleep. Many people do not even realize they have this disease, but if left untreated sleep apnea can be life-threatening and lead to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The main effects of this are sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation.
The following are symptoms of sleep disorder: frequent silences during sleep, loud snoring, chocking or gasping sounds made during sleep, sudden awakenings; and daytime sleepiness. First of all not everyone that snores has sleep disorder - snoring is just one symptom.
There are three different types of sleep disorder.
The most common type of sleep disorder is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This type of sleep disorder is caused by an obstruction which stops the flow of air to the nose and mouth. When the breathing stops, blood oxygen levels fall which forces the heart to work harder. By the heart working harder, the blood pressure rises, and may cause an irregular heartbeat. The primary causes of OSA include: obesity; large adenoids or tonsils; deviated septum; enlarged tongue; nasal congestion or blockage due to an allergy; and throat muscles and tongue that relax more than normal. OSA occurs most commonly in overweight men ranging from age 30 to 50.
Both sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation can result in health problems. An individual with sleep deprivation will experience fatigue, loss of memory, slurred speech, irritability, hypertension, tremors, obesity, blurred vision, slower reaction time, anxiety, irritability, unable to solve problems, inability to focus on thoughts or tasks, decreased level of energy, and clumsiness. In individual suffering from oxygen deprivation can suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, sexual dysfunction, and problems with learning and memory.
Another type of sleep apnea is Central Sleep Apnea or CSA. This is type is not as common as OSA. This type of sleep apnea occurs when that part of the brain and nerves that controls breathing does not work properly which causes breathing to be impaired. The cause of CSA is usually a stroke or head injury. CSA occurs most commonly occurs in adults or infants with heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, or congenital disease; however, it can also be caused by some medications and high altitudes.
The third and final type of this sleeping disorder is Mixed Sleep Apnea and is rare. The type of sleep apnea is a combination of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.
A minor case of sleep disorder is quite responsive to self-help treatments such as: weight loss; stop using alcohol, tobacco, and sedatives; sleeping on your side versus on your back; elevating the head of the bed (approximately 4-5 inches); maintaining of regular sleep hours; and the use of nasal dilator, nasal spray, or breathe right strips.
With severe cases of sleep disorder the above self-help treatments may not be enough, after an individual undergoes a test called a polysomnogamn at a sleep clinic and diagnosed by a sleep specialist with the sleep disorder disease, the recommend treatment may consist of a breathing assistance device, surgery, drugs, or dental/oral devices.