Aside from sleep deprivation and insomnia, other sleep problems can profoundly affect your health. One of the most famous (and more lethal) is sleep apnea.
Do you snore and have breathing problems during sleep to the point that you skip breathing during sleep? If you do, you might have obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form of sleep apnea.
Apnea is coined from the Greek word apnoia that means loss or suspension of breath, which is the distinctive feature of this sleep disorder. Sufferers of this disorder can have a gap in their breathing lasting for ten to twenty seconds and occurring 60 times per hour on average. This temporary loss of breathing has affected some people so much they are awakened every 30 seconds every night with another bout of apnea.
Besides loss of breath, here are other symptoms of this disorder:
- Loud and irritating snoring almost every night
- Choking, gasping or snorting during sleep
- Random awakenings during the wee hours
- Feeling sleepy and tired during the day, no matter how long you slept
Sufferers of this disorder also can experience these symptoms:
- A dry mouth upon waking up
- A restless sleep
- Morning headaches
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness, irritability, or depression without clear reason
An estimated 18 million Americans, or roughly seven percent of the entire U.S. population have sleep apnea. This number may increase as many of sufferers (about two to four percent) are undiagnosed.
Not only do sleep apnea sufferers have difficulty getting a restful night’s sleep, but they also are prone to developing serious health problems, some of which are deadly. In fact, those who have this disorder can have a higher risk of premature death. A study found out that those suffering from sleep apnea are three times more likely to die prematurely than non-sufferers. Another study discovered that it leads to greater chance of heart attack. Moreover, it also heightens the risk of acquiring pneumonia.
Apart from the health problems above, sleep apnea also can increase the chances of having:
- High blood pressure
Given all scary facts above, sleep apnea certainly is a severe condition that requires urgent medical attention. Consult your doctor if you experience any of the above symptoms.
Prevention and treatment
If you have mild sleep apnea, here are some things to do to lessen its severity:
Avoid drinking alcohol and taking medications that make you drowsy. These substances can obstruct your throat while asleep.
Maintain your ideal weight. Losing weight can bring considerable improvement in minimizing symptoms.
Keep a regular sleep schedule. Loss of sleep is also a major trigger of sleep apnea. Seven to eight hours sleep at the same time every night helps alleviate sleep apnea symptoms.
Become a side sleeper. This position opens up your throat. Buy special pillows that prevent you from lying down flat during sleep. Sufferers also can find comfort from sleeping on a gel memory foam mattress with medium to soft firmness.
Use mouthpieces. Consult your dentist and ask him to provide you with a customized plastic mouthpiece for sleep apnea.
Quit smoking. Doctors believe smoking is one of the primary causes of sleep apnea. This unhealthy activity intensifies the inflammation and fluid retention in your upper airway.
Sleep apnea is a seemingly harmless disorder that can have serious health repercussions if left untreated. You can prevent this condition from progressing to a life-threatening degree by following the above tips and consulting your doctor at once.