How To Tell If You Have Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is a breathing condition that affects up to 5 percent of the population. This condition can disturb sleep, make people less effective during the day, and endanger overall health. Sleep apnea can affect people of any age. Experts believe up to 85 percent of those who have sleep apnea do not know they have it.

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the airways for breathing do not open properly during sleep.

Sleep apnea is linked to high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, stroke, diabetes, and obesity. It can worsen heart problems. The lack of quality sleep can also increase work and driving accidents. Sleep apnea is a problem that must be managed over a lifetime. Two types of sleep apnea occur, obstructive sleep apnea, and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax, blocking off the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain sends poor signals to the muscles that control breathing during sleep.

Signs of Sleep Apnea

Morning headache, dry mouth and throat, difficulty staying asleep and loud snoring can be signs of sleep apnea. You may have your sleep interrupted with feelings of shortness of breath. You may suspect sleep apnea of you have excessive sleepiness during the day due to the poor sleep quality. You may have problems with inattention at work due to sleepiness. Daytime irritability is also common in those with sleep apnea.

Can Others Tell You If You Have Sleep Apnea?

Many times, people do not know they have sleep apnea until their sleeping partner mentions it to them. The partner may notice periods where breathing seems to stop momentarily, and then resume. The partner may be disturbed by chronic snoring. It is through these symptoms that other people can inform you that you may a sleeping disorder that might be sleep apnea.

Diagnosis for Sleep Apnea

If you suspect sleep apnea, make an appointment with your physician to discuss the symptoms and possible treatments. Physicians generally cannot diagnose sleep apnea simply by examining you. The doctor may have you do a home test while you sleep to measure heart rate, blood oxygen level and breathing patterns. This can help him to determine if sleep apnea is at fault.

Treating Sleep Apnea

If your tests show that there is blockage in the airflow when you sleep, your physician may prescribe the use of a CPAP machine to help you breath normally during the night. A Continuous Positive Airway Pressure machine, or CPAP, is used to regulate breathing during the night in those who suffer from sleep apnea. These machines are small devices that sit on the nightstand and provide a constant airflow to the respiratory system. They consist of a mask of some type, a hose that connects to the machine and a motor that pushes air into the tube at a constant rate.  These can alleviate the fatigue and lack of clarity during the day that often occurs in those with sleep apnea. Many types of machines are available with different breathing masks. Some are available with built-in humidifiers to provide moistened air. Sometimes medication is prescribed for sleep apnea problems. Surgery may also be needed to open air passageways.

Byline:  Peter Carlisle understands how important CPAP therapy is for folks with sleep apnea.  He too has the condition.

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