Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder that occurs when the muscles in your throat relaxes during sleep, or when the brain sends the wrong signals to the muscles that control breathing. This reduces the level of oxygen in the blood.
When the brain senses this reduction in oxygen level, it will jolt the body to briefly awaken you from sleep, allowing you to reopen your airways.
What are the Symptoms of this Disease?
Because you are frequently being jolted by your brain to rouse from sleep, individuals with sleep apnea cannot reach deep sleep. This causes the individual to feel fatigued and sleepy the next day. Other symptoms of sleep apnea are:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Morning headache
- Compromised focus at school or at work
- Insomnia, or difficulty staying asleep
Who’s at Risk of Sleep Apnea?
Individuals with these conditions are at highest risk of sleep apnea:
- Obesity or overweight
- Thicker neck circumference
- Older age
- Ethnicity (African-Americans below 35 years of age are more likely to develop sleep apnea)
- Alcohol consumption, use of sedatives and other substances that may cause the throat muscles to relax and obstruct the airway
- Cigarette smoking (smokers have threefold risk of sleep apnea)
- Other medical conditions, such as brain tumor and heart abnormalities
What are the Complications of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea may cause a host of different problems, such as liver problems and hypertension. Individuals with sleep apnea are especially at risk of accidents and hazards while at work because of loss of focus.
As such, it is important to talk to your doctor about different treatments for sleep disorders to prevent any adverse events. Sleep apnea treatments range from oral appliances to devices and machines that could help you keep your airway passages open.
Switching to a healthier lifestyle can help you lessen your risk of sleep apnea. Maintaining your weight through regular exercise, avoiding alcohol, and practicing good sleeping habits may all help in keeping sleep apnea at bay.