What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of a collapse of the upper airway during sleep, interrupting airflow and reducing blood oxygen levels during sleep. It is severely undiagnosed in the U.S. and those suffering from it are usually unaware they have it. In fact, it is often the spouse or loved one who first notices sleep apnea. Common signs include loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep — sufferers stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer, up to hundreds of times per night — sometimes reducing blood oxygen to dangerously low levels.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is caused by the blockage of the airway during sleep. It occurs when the muscles in the upper airway of the throat collapse, which interferes with proper breathing.
During sleep apnea episodes, air doesn’t enter the body. The oxygen level in the bloodstream falls and the organs receive less oxygen. The heart may even try to compensate by pumping faster and raising blood pressure. With repeated obstructive sleep apnea episodes, the supply of oxygen to the other organs becomes progressively depleted — so instead of restful rejuvenation during sleep, the heart and organs actually become more stressed.
Also, the brain will wake the person from deepest sleep to allow air to flow again. While this may not wake the person fully, it will disrupt his or her sleep cycles. Because of this, sleep apnea sufferers rarely get a full night’s rest.
How Do I Know if I Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Common signs of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Gasping or choking during sleep (often noticed first by spouse or partner)
- Restless sleep
- Chronic daytime sleepiness
Nearly 50% of people with sleep apnea also suffer from one or more serious health conditions such as diabetes, hypertension or depression, which are often aggravated or even caused by sleep apnea.
What Happens if Sleep Apnea is Not Treated?
If left untreated, the fatigue and restlessness associated with sleep apnea can severely affect a person’s quality of life. It often makes concentration difficult, decreases productivity at work and increases the risk of accidents and errors in daily activities.
Because sleep apnea is also connected to a number of other serious health conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, depression, weight gain, daytime fatigue, and erectile or sexual dysfunction, not treating sleep apnea can aggravate the symptoms of these other conditions — which in many cases can be life-threatening.
If you think you or a loved one has sleep apnea, talk to your doctor about getting diagnosed in the comfort and privacy of your own home with an AccuSom® home sleep test. The benefits of sleep apnea treatments will be life-changing.