What is Sleep Apnea and How Does it Affect You?

What is Sleep Apnea and How Does it Affect You?

Posted by Bethaney Wallace on 17th Jun 2014

Sleep apnea is a condition that affects thousands of sleepers each night. By obstructing one’s airways and causing them to stop and start breathing while asleep, patients regularly suffer from this ongoing condition. And though it sounds dangerous, other than affecting one’s sleeping hours, it’s relatively harmless. In fact, most don’t even realize that they've woken up multiple times throughout the night. They simply wake up tired and unrested on a regular basis. Other symptoms include loud snoring, which can also be caused by the obstructed airways.

Whether or not they’re aware they have it, those of all ages can wake up throughout the night in order to regulate their airflow. Each time the body misses – even by milliseconds – a breath, the body jolts itself awake in order to correct the problem. And even though this can happen tens of times each night, most don’t fully wake up during the process. In fact, people with sleep apnea usually don’t even know they have it at first. But after months, if not years, of waking up tired and unrested, they work with their doctors to find a common cause for their continued tired-ness.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

For the majority of sufferers, sleep apnea is caused by muscles that simply become too relaxed. Once the body drifts off to sleep, muscles sink into a deep state of resting. However, when they become too relaxed, they can no longer create the same airway that’s necessary for deep breathing – especially while laying down. Here the airways become obstructed by the very same muscles that are set to keep them open.

This is easily remedied with the help of a CPAP machine, which creates a constant airflow through the nose and throat. Here, the throat muscles have no opportunity to close, allowing the sleeper to stay asleep for the entire night.

For those who fall outside this muscle relaxation category, there might be something more serious to blame. Rather than the muscles themselves misbehaving, those with central sleep apnea see the issue take root directly in the brain. When sleeping, the brain fails to send the correct signals to one’s throat muscles, which then allows them to obstruct the very same airways. Simply a different cause behind the exact same sleeping issue.

Patients with central sleep apnea can also benefit from a CPAP machine, but should talk to their doctor about any other neurological issues and determine whether or not they should see a specialist.

The Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Aside from being chronically tired, the side effects that are associated with sleep apnea are fairly minimal. Rather, patients will wake up tired as a general rule, oftentimes without knowing how or why their body is so unrested. After all, they still feel like they got a full night’s sleep – having no recollection of their frequent wake ups – so in theory, there’s no reason to be so tired on a regular basis. If left untreated, this itself can lead to frustration and anger. Especially when running on a constantly tired body. However, after being diagnosed, patients should quickly catch back up on their sleeping patterns.

Another side effect can result in excessive snoring. While this is more of a problem for anyone with whom you share a bed – or even a living space – it can create some unnecessary friction at home.

Those who suffer from sleep apnea often see various signs, such as loud snoring or waking up tired – despite having gotten a “full” night of rest. If you think you might be suffering from this sleep-based disease, schedule an appointment with your doctor and start exploring side effects today.