fact that this happens during sleep is precisely why so many people
with this condition remain
undiagnosed. Most people will think that
they suffer from a type of snoring disorder. Usually this condition
will only be diagnosed when
a partner or spouse complains about being
kept awake at night.
Apnea is derived from the Greek language. When translated its literal
meaning is "without
breath". While you sleep you can stop breathing
either partially or completely. This process repeats itself and can
last between seconds and minutes depending on the particular
breathing stops, the oxygen saturation levels in the blood can drop
dangerously low. This drop will put an enormous strain on the heart and
vital organs. The heart's work rate will increase
dramatically just to
keep the body's vital organs supplied with fresh
body has a natural defense mechanism to combat the lack of oxygen being
supplied to the lungs. If your breathing stops while you are sleeping,
you will be jolted or
roused out of your sleep cycle to try and
resupply the body with fresh oxygenated blood.
sufferers will be completely unaware of these nighttime occurrences,
but if you have ever woken up coughing or gasping for air, it is more
than likely you suffer from a type of sleep apnea. Depending on which
type you suffer from, the symptoms and causes can differ and range from
sleep apnea to severe.
are two main types of the disorder but there is also a third condition
that combines these types. These disorders can be found in
people of all ages, body
types and gender. They also stem from
different problems so it is important to know which type you have
before trying to find out what sleep apnea is exactly.
first type is obstructive
sleep apnea. This is where the upper airway
becomes blocked or obstructed. This obstruction is most commonly caused
by the relaxation of the throat muscles during sleep.
blockage of the throat will force the air to reach the lungs through a
smaller gap in the airway causing the effect known as snoring.
people confuse snoring with sleep related apneas and for that reason
rarely go to see a specialist.
second type is known as central
sleep apnea. This is when the signal
that is usually sent from the brain, instructing the body to work the
muscles that allow us to breathe, is not sent. So unlike obstructive
apnea there is no
body needs to continue breathing during the night to survive but is not
receiving the correct signals to do so. If you are male, overweight and
over 40 years of age the risk of you suffering from this condition is
third type of the disorder is called mixed, or complex sleep apnea. It
is a mixture of both the first and second types. It is thought that
mixed apnea often begins
as central and then can develop into
Both types can cause long term
damage to your
related apnea has been medically linked to a number of life threatening
conditions including sleep
apnea heart problems, strokes and sudden
adult death syndrome.
two types of apnea on their own can have an adverse effect on your
ability to lead a normal healthy life. In some cases of more severe
sleep apnea, a person can awaken up to thirty times an hour.
affects the body’s ability to achieve the required number of
uninterrupted sleep cycles to feel refreshed and ready for the day
is Sleep Apnea Treatment Like?
can be prone to falling
asleep during the day because they have been
deprived of quality sleeping time by the apnea disorder. Falling asleep
during the day can have detrimental consequences especially if you work
with dangerous machinery or have to drive.
could be not only putting yourself at risk but others as well. The good
news is that sleep apnea treatment is widely available and can help
control the disorder, depending on the severity of each case.
servo-ventilation (ASV): This machine is designed to
breathing by automatically adjusting the levels of support it gives
out, depending on your own breathing. If your breathing is shallow, the
pressure will increase and then decrease again as the breathing becomes
Positive Airway Pressure (BPAP): This device
will produce a
different amount of air pressure when you are breathing in, and a
different amount when you are breathing out. It can also be set to
"give" you a breath, if your own breathing has not been detected in a
set amount of time.
Positive Air Pressure (CPAP): The CPAP machine
pressure to the airway which can help to treat obstructive apnea and is
attached to your face via an air mask. The positive air
pressure pumped through the mask will help stop your upper airway from
closing while you are sleeping.
The Epworth sleepiness scale measures
a patient’s likelihood to fall asleep during the day. The patient is
asked a series of eight questions, which are then rated on a scale from
0-3. A normal score is anywhere between 0-9. A result which is higher
than that can give an indication that the person is suffering from
This test is extremely well used because it can be carried out at home
and does not require a person having to be admitted to a sleep clinic.
This device measures the blood oxygen levels during sleep. The results
can then be analyzed by a specialist to determine whether a person has
a sleep related condition.
Polysomnography: This test requires the person to be
admitted to a
clinic or hospital environment. It measures heart rate, blood
pressure, eye movements, muscle movements, blood oxygen levels and
respiratory movements during sleep. The test can help diagnose if any
condition or disorder is apparent during a person’s sleep cycles.