Sleep apnea is a much more widespread health condition than what was previously thought, affecting up to 18 million Americans. It is potentially life-threatening because it can interfere with breathing during sleep, and it can affect anyone regardless of age or gender.
When a person snores loudly while they sleep and wakes up feeling fatigued despite a long night’s sleep, there is a high probability that sleep apnea is the cause. Let’s talk about the symptoms of sleep apnea and what can be done to diagnose and treat it.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three main types of sleep apnea, which are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome:
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of the condition, and it is caused when a person’s throat muscles relax – thereby narrowing the airway. This can cause the person to temporarily stop breathing or to snore loudly.
Central sleep apnea is when the brain does not properly communicate with the lungs to take a breath. The person therefore wakes up sputtering and coughing.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome is the combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. The throat relaxes, and the person does not breathe properly, causing many interruptions throughout the night while sleeping.
How Sleep Apnea Occurs
Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles at the rear of the throat relax and narrow the airway, so not enough oxygen is taken into the lungs. The brain responds to this threat by waking the person to take a breath. This occurs so quickly that the person will not recall it the next morning.
Central sleep apnea is so named because it is a result of the central nervous system (which comprises the brain and the spinal cord) shutting down momentarily during sleep, not telling the body to breathe. This can also cause the person to awaken with shortness of breath or to have difficulty falling or staying asleep.
How the Signs of Sleep Apnea Overlap
All types of sleep apnea can cause loud snoring. The person may therefore wake up with a dry mouth due to the mouth being open all night. The patient may frequently gasp for breath, and the sporadic lack of oxygen can make the patient experience a headache upon waking.
They may suffer from insomnia or the inability to stay asleep, which results in excessive daytime sleepiness. However, the more severe signs of sleep apnea are when the person stops breathing during sleep. The person will not notice it themselves; this would need to be noticed by another person. It can also be discovered during a sleep study by doctors and sleep technicians.
Tired of Feeling Tired?
If you are in the area of Columbia, South Carolina, and you are having persistent trouble sleeping or you never feel well-rested, contact our friendly team at SC Internal Medicine Associates & Rehabilitation. We have an on-site sleep lab, and our doctors have comprehensive training in helping people sleep and in staying healthy.
Call us today at (803) 749-1111 or request an appointment online, and let us diagnose your sleep issue – whether it is due to sleep apnea or something else – and help show you ways to treat it so you can enjoy life to the fullest.