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What is Sleep Apnea?
I was diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea in 2004 after a sleep study. In simple language, sleep apnea means the body stops breathing for short periods of time during sleep. It is estimated that 4% of men and 2% of women are living with some form of sleep apnea. The more I talk to people the more I think these percentages are actually higher.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA is one of the most common sleep disorders and is caused by the airway being blocked, usually by the relaxation of the surrounding tissues. People with large amounts of flesh around their chest and neck may notice that when they lie down that the tissues redistribute upwards. This chest tissue may press against the lower neck and in some cases cause obstruction when the muscles relax in sleep. Some may even find it is actually easier for them to breath if they are upright or on an angle rather than lying flat.
The word 'apnea' is a medical term and literally translates into "lack of breath". When a body goes into a state of apnea it causes a natural survival response which makes the sufferer wake up and begin breathing. When I was tested I was stopping eight times an hour which, I was glad to learn, is really low. Some sufferers of sleep apnea may stop sixty or more times an hour. This constant breath stopping and body waking obviously prevents a good night's sleep.
Why is it important to treat sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea seems like a mild interruption but it can lead to worse conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, stroke, fatigue, seizures, depression, and of course fatigue related accidents (think driving or heavy machinery).
During the night our body's processes slow down so the body can regenerate and heal from its daily activities. The brain also needs a period of time to recuperate from the day's events and process anything it has learned. Lack of a restful sleep prevents this and opens the body up to illness.
You may have sleep apnea if you...
* have day time sleepiness
* fall asleep during day
* don't feel refreshed upon waking
* have restless sleep
* wake up choking during the night
* partner notices lack of breathing
* have frequent wake-ups
* are unable to concentrate
* have poor memory
* have morning disorientation
* have personality changes
* have headaches
If you experience any of these symptoms or if your partner says you are then it is important to talk with your physician to see if a sleep study is in order.
Content copyright © 2013 by M. E. Wood. All rights reserved.
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