What is Sleep Apnea?

by john

The primary purpose of the CPAP Review website is to evaluate the many continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP) machines and accessories that are on the market.  However before we start looking at the remedy we need to look at the problem, which is Sleep Apnea.

What is Sleep Apnea?

The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath.”  Sleep Apnea is a medical condition characterized by pauses in breath during sleep.  To qualify as an official apnea these pauses must be at least 10 seconds in duration.  Quite literally during these 10 seconds the patient is not breathing and only receives life-giving oxygen when jolted into action by the bodies reflexes.  Severe Sleep Apnea means having at least 35 of these apnea episodes per hour.

Three Types of Sleep Apnea

The three types of sleep apnea are obstructive, central and mixed.   Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. Mixed apnea, as the name implies, is a combination of the two. With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.  In addition blood oxygen level are decreased resulting in a host of problems.

Who Gets Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apena is a common medical condition; almost as common as adult onset diabetes.  According to the National Institutes of Health over twelve million Americans are suffering from some form of Sleep Apnea.  There are several risk factors for Sleep Apnea including being male, overweight and over the age of forty.  However it is important to note that Sleep Apnea can strike anyone, even children.  The sad thing is that because of a lack of awareness by the public and halthcare professionals, the vast majority of Americans who have Sleep Apnea remain undiagnosed and untreated, despite the fact this serious disorder can have significant health consequences.

What Problems Are Associated with Sleep Apnea?

Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.

What Are The Treatments for Sleep Apnea?

There are  many treatments available for sleep apnea.  We will go over these in more detail in future posts, however here is a quick summary:

  • Self treatments like losing weight, stopping the use of alchohol or smoking, sleep on your side or using a nasal dilater.
  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine – CPAP is the most widely recommended treatment for moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP entails wearing a mask-like device while you sleep, which provides pressurized air to prevent the airway from collapsing.
  • Dental appliances, oral devices, and lower jaw adjustment devices
  • Surgery to increase the size of the airway

What Next?

Not sure if you or your partner have sleep apnea?  Take this quiz to find out.  Arrange for a sleep study if it looks like you may have sleep apnea.  Come back to CPAP Review if you require a CPAP machine for treatment of your Sleep Apnea.

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