Everyone knows what it feels like to be sleep-deprived. Many people accept the all-too-familiar tiredness and drowsiness as the usual consequences of a busy lifestyle. However, if you constantly feel sleepy and tired, you might be suffering from a more serious condition: sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea interrupts sleep and makes it difficult to get enough rest. It can have even worse consequences because the disorder is also associated with cardiovascular problems.
However, the condition can be managed. Before seeking treatment, it may help to understand how sleep apnea works and why it affects your ability to have a good night’s rest.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when a person temporarily stops breathing during sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea, based on the immediate cause.
The first type is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the tissues of the throat collapse during sleep, obstructing airflow. When a person is awake, muscle tension keeps the airway open. During sleep, the muscles can sometimes relax too much, reducing the diameter of the airway.
The second, less common type is central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the diaphragm and other breathing muscles. Hence, there are no muscle contractions that lead to inhalation and exhalation.
How Sleep Apnea Affects Your Rest
With sleep apnea, you may stop breathing hundreds of times throughout the night. Whenever breathing stops, oxygen levels in the blood start to decrease. When the level reaches critical levels, the brain sends signals to wake up the person, causing breathing to resume.
In many cases, you are unaware of the episodes, although it can prevent you from reaching deeper stages of sleep. As a result, you become sleep-deprived. In fact, many of the symptoms and complications of sleep apnea are due to this cumulative, chronic sleep loss.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Signs and symptoms can vary, but most people experience the following:
- Excessive snoring
- Gasping for air
- Consistent fatigue
- Decreased concentration and focus
- Severe sleepiness during the day
Diagnosis & Treatment for Sleep Apnea
A doctor will usually suspect sleep apnea based on your signs and symptoms. You may then be referred to a sleep clinic, where specialists will monitor you as you sleep. One test is called nocturnal polysomnography, where your vital signs, limb movements, and oxygen levels are continuously monitored as you sleep.
For mild cases, treatment consists of lifestyle changes and vigilant monitoring. For more severe cases, a special therapy called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is administered. It entails using a machine that delivers high-pressure air to you as you sleep, helping to keep your airway open and ensuring that you keep breathing while you sleep. Sometimes, surgery may be required.
For sleep apnea diagnosis and treatment, you can count on SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation. Equipped with cutting-edge equipment and teams of professionals trained to provide high-quality medical services, SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation has more than three decades of helping the South Carolina community with their medical needs. Call us at (803) 749-1111 or request an appointment now to get the medical attention you deserve.