Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Causes

Sleep apnea deprives the body of sleep but it also deprives the body of oxygen as well. If left untreated it will get worse.

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Sleep Apnea is a very serious sleep disorder which affects more than 18 million Americans. It's a potentially dangerous condition in which a person's breathing is continuously interrupted during sleep. Breathing can be interrupted for as few as 10 seconds to as many as 60 seconds or longer. In the short term, it is detrimental to daily life and energy, and, over time, hazardous to health, and, in some cases, may even result in death.

In order for the person to resume breathing, the brain has to awaken the individual each time breathing halts. The cycle of breathing disruption and brain awakening can repeat hundreds of times during a single sleep period.

It's a known fact that sleep apnea deprives the body of sleep, but, many do not realize that it deprives the body of oxygen as well. If left untreated it will get worse. High blood pressure can develop as can other types of cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea and anxiety go hand in hand, but, it can even become so severe that it can actually endanger your life.

The most obvious symptom of sleep apnea is a consistent and constant feeling of grogginess throughout the day. Many people with this disorder will frequently fall asleep during daytime hours. This makes sense since a person with sleep apnea does not ever really get to fall into a deep sleep.

There are other symptoms associated with sleep apnea. Those associated with sleeping including profusely sweating during sleep, gasping or choking, unusually loud snoring and waking suddenly and/or frequently to catch one's breath.

When you wake up, you may experience an inability to focus, concentrate and/or remember. Sleep apnea can also cause headaches in the morning, and a sore throat or dry mouth upon awakening. Your attention span may be shorter and your judgment may not be as good. You may experience mood swings or depression. Impotence and weight gain are also common symptoms of sleep apnea.

Those who regularly experience untreated sleep apnea can suffer other negative consequences. These can include an increased risk of becoming involved in accidents involving machinery and vehicles, as well as a reduced ability to carry out normal work-related functions.

The word "apnea" itself is taken from the Greek, and means "without breath".

In most cases of sleep apnea, the muscles inside the windpipe, which are located at the back of the throat, relax, allowing soft tissue to cause a blockage inside this airway.

Because these muscles support the tongue, tonsils or uvula, these body parts can also cause the blockage. The blockage prevents an adequate supply of air from entering. This most common form of sleep apnea is referred to as OSA or Obstructed Sleep Apnea.

With Central Sleep Apnea, a far less common form of sleep apnea, there is no blockage of the airway. Instead, for some reason, the brain is not able to send the messages necessary to instruct the appropriate muscles to carry out the breathing function. Blocked airways with a concurrent loss of brain control can also occur simultaneously resulting in a form of sleep apnea called Mixed Apnea.

Researchers believe they have identified several factors which they believe are responsible for causing sleep apnea. The largest group at risk for sleep apnea are males aged 40 or older. Those who are overweight are also at greater risk, as are those who smoke, drink alcohol and/or use sedatives. An irregular sleep schedule, a family history, nasal congestion, snoring and problems with the tonsils, adenoids, tongue, chin, septum, vocal cords are other conditions which can contribute to sleep apnea.

One thing to keep in mind is that many physical and mental conditions, including stress and anxiety, can not only be symptoms of OSA, but, can be contributory causes of sleep apnea as well.

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