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Sleep Apnea: Overview of a Devastating Condition

A quite large percentage of people around the world suffer from sleep apnea or some other serious sleeping disorder, yet the majority of them remain blissfully unaware of their condition and just how serious and consequential it can actually be.



For some reason, when we consider our health, the most important things that come to mind are things such as diet and exercise, and people tend to almost completely ignore the effect that your quality of sleep hygiene has on your overall level of health. 

Unfortunately, this has had the effect of making many people completely unaware that they suffer from a serious disorder like sleep apnea. If left untreated, sleep apnea can have very serious and even potentially fatal consequences for the sufferer, despite the fact that most people with sleep apnea remain completely unaware of the fact that they are suffering from the condition. 

This is partly why it is so important that individuals suffering from this disorder are diagnosed and able to get the treatment that they need in order to protect their overall level of health. This is also why so many organizations out there are trying to spread the word about this disorder and getting doctors and hospitals to better understand and be able to diagnose and treat this disorder. 

What is Sleep Apnea?

One of the first questions that most people have is, “what exactly is sleep apnea?” For those who are unaware, this sleeping disorder is a condition whereby an individual stops breathing for short periods of time while sleeping. Typically, this disorder is categorized by its severity, ranging from mild to severe. 

The severity of this sleeping disorder depends on exactly how long a person stops breathing and also how many times these cessations of breath happen during an hour. 

Causes of Sleep Apnea

sleep apneaThere are two basic types of this disorder, with the first and most common being referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. In this form of the disorder, a person stops breathing due to a blockage of the air passages in the throat and nose which cause them to stop breathing for short intervals during the night. 

These blockages are also the main cause of simple snoring, which is why this disorder is accompanied by loud and frequent snoring.

The other, much less common form of this disorder is known as central sleep apnea. This disorder is caused by a central nervous system problem which prevents the person from breathing for short periods while sleeping. 

 

While it is estimated that up to 20 or even 30% of the adult population suffers from disorder to some extent or another, the instances of central sleep apnea make up less than five percent of the total cases and it is actually quite rare.

 
Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and Treatment Options

As stated earlier, most people remain completely unaware that they are suffering from this type of sleeping disorder. They may have been told that they snore uncontrollably, but most just pass it off as simple snoring, when in fact it may very well be caused by apnea. 

sleep apneaStill, some people are first alerted to the fact that they might have this disorder by a partner who notices that their breathing stops for short periods while they sleep. Even so, most people still do not get properly diagnosed and treated.

Basically, there is only one way to diagnose this sleeping disorder, and that is to undergo a sleep study or polysomnogram. This type of test usually requires the individual to spend a night in a sleep clinic, where they will sleep while hooked up to machines which will measure their heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen saturation levels, and many other things. 

By looking at the results, a sleep specialist is usually then able to determine whether or not the person suffers from this condition, and if so, how severe their apnea really is.

When most people think of a sleeping disorder, they imagine that they can simply take pills or other sleeping medication and this will eliminate the problem. While this may be somewhat true for sleeping disorders such as insomnia, it is actually completely wrong for apnea and may actually worsen the problem

There are no effective sleep apnea medications on the market, and pretty much all of the effective treatment options require the continual nightly use of a sleeping or snoring device

The actual treatment options for this disorder depend on exactly how severe the disorder is determined to be. For those who only suffer from a mild form of this disorder, there are actually quite a few different treatment options that may be able to help. 

These options include a number of different anti-snoring devices, such as specially designed pillows, mouth guards, chin straps, nasal dilators, nose strips, and many others. In fact, most any device that is designed to open the airways while sleeping should be fairly effective at reducing or completely eliminating mild forms of this disorder. Some of these devices are even effective for those with more moderate forms of this disorder, although these people should consult their doctor before using any sleeping device.

However, if the sleep study determines that you are suffering from a severe form of this sleeping disorder, then there is typically only one treatment option available to you, and this is known as CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure). 

sleep apneaCPAP is a machine that blows a continuous stream of air into your mouth or nose via a sleep apnea mask, and is basically the only treatment option available to those suffering from more serious forms of apnea. 

Of course, there are a few surgical options for sleep apnea available as well, but like all surgeries, they come with their own inherent risks, and none have yet to be proven to be completely effective at eliminating apnea. If you think you may be suffering from this disorder, it is essential to discuss it with your doctor as soon as possible so you can get the treatment that you need.


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