Sleep Apnea: A Silent Killer

by Kathryn Whittaker

Getting a good night sleep is essential for your well-being. However, many people don’t realize that they are often sleep-deprived because of breathing problems. Over 90 percent of people who snore are at risk for sleep disordered breathing, or sleep apnea.

According to the National Sleep Foundation research, about 18 million of adults are not getting enough sleep because of sleep apnea. Suffering with sleep deprivation will make you feel tired and groggy, which leads to poor productivity at work and even result in bad driving habits. Your bedmate can eventually get tired of your constant moving and breathing irregularities which can cause stress and strain on your relationship and lead to separate bedrooms.

Pauses in breathing while asleep is called sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing. Most often adults are diagnosed with obstructive apnea, or sleep disordered breathing which is caused by the blockage of the breathing passage by tonsils and adenoids.

Sleep apnea affects you in ways that you couldn’t dream of. The vicious circle of sleep apnea starts when a throat is blocked, blood oxygen level falls due to the lack of breath, and a person wakes up gasping for air.

People with sleep apnea often feel tired and sleepy during the day because their sleep quality is affected, as they move out of deep sleep and into light sleep several times during the night. These periods of not breathing, as short as they are, will inevitably wake you up from deep sleep. As a result, you are not getting enough rest from your sleep. Plus, sleep apnea causes a reduction of oxygen in the bloodstream which results in overall deprivation of cellular functions in your body.

If you snore, sleep restlessly, gasp and pause when breathing at sleep, especially during deep sleep, most likely you have sleep apnea. You can detect these symptoms yourself, or most likely you have been told about them by your partner. Sleep apnea is most common in people who are overweight. Men are also more at risk than women. Almost all people who have sleep apnea snore – at least once during the night. However, not all people who snore have sleep apnea. It’s important to check for other sleep apnea symptoms to see if you have this medical condition.

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring and sleepiness during the day. Other symptoms include:

Restless tossing and turning during sleep. Nighttime choking Nighttime sweating Mild to severe chest pain Waking tired after sleep Having problems with memory and concentration Feeling irritable and nervous Experiencing personality changes Morning headaches Heartburn Swelling of the legs

Undetected sleep apnea may increase your risk for hypertension, heart attack or stroke, as well as diabetes and work-related and driving accidents. Sleep apnea can also cause brain damage and result in shorter life span.

If sleep apnea is successfully treated and you start sleeping better, you will experience a huge boost of energy. Many people even report having less asthma, they are calmer, with more positive outlook; they have improved stamina and better functioning immune system. So if you suspect you or your partner is suffering with this condition you should speak to your doctor to discuss possible treatment plans.