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What Is Sleep Apnea?

By Edited May 23, 2015 1 0

I have been suffering from sleep apnea for most of my life. My hope is that those that might be suffering from it seek medical assistance and finally get a good night’s sleep.

Have You Been Here?

Man Sleeping On Couch
Credit: Photo By Joi Ito

Sleep apnea is where person stops breathing while sleeping. This causes the body to be deprived of oxygen for periods of up to several minutes. The lack of oxygen can then cause the person to wake up gasping for air so that the oxygen levels in the blood can return to normal and provide oxygen to the cells of the body. Episodes can happen from 5 to 30 times (or more) per hour and causes the body to be unable to rest and recover properly. It causes the person to wake just after going to sleep, therefore interrupting the non-REM and REM (the important times during sleep) cycles that are needed for proper bodily function.

Sleep apnea’s can be caused for two main reasons. The first is the obstruction of the airway by the relaxing of your muscles causing a blockage. The second is the brain stops sending the signal to breathe. Originally I suffered from the obstruction of my airway but now suffer from my brain stopping my breathing (a small side effect of my treatment), though it is not as bad. I was originally having about 30 blockage caused sleep apneas per hour and now have about 3 brain caused apneas per night.

Watch What Sleep Apnea Looks Like

Sleep apnea causes a disruption to the normal sleep patterns that the body relies on to restore the body for the next day. Due to this interruption of my normal sleep patterns I would have to sleep about 12 hours to feel even somewhat normal.

Unfortunately due to the nature of sleep apnea when people wake from an episode they do not remember gasping for air as it is a subconscious reaction and occurs before they are aware they are awake. Like most people I sought medical assistance only after my mother discovered I would stop breathing for several minutes. I would only start breathing again just before she jumped out of bed to come to my rescue. If it was not for the fact that at the time I was sleeping with only a thin wall between my mother and myself, I would probably continue to go undiagnosed.

The symptoms of sleep apnea are not easy to detect as they have multiple possible causes, however they can include:

  • Restless sleep
  • Snoring
  • Fatigue
  • Falling asleep during the day
  • Insomnia

I remember having the problem of regularly falling asleep in the most inappropriate places such as on the bus or train and it would happen frequently (I would even fall asleep in church, please don’t tell anyone though) including falling asleep in front of the TV. I ended up having to keep myself busy to help stop myself from falling asleep.

I Was Like This Often!

Sleeping On The Train
Credit: Photo by Samantha Marx

The side effects of sleep apnea can include:

  1. Daytime sleepiness
  2. Fatigue
  3. Arrhythmia (irregular heart beat)
  4. Increase risk of:
    1. High blood pressure
    2. Heart attack
    3. Stroke
    4. Obesity
    5. Diabetes
  5. Lose of concentration
  6. Lose of motivation or drive
  7. Moodiness
  8. Belligerence
  9. Insomnia

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is through the conducting of a sleep study, where you are wired up to a device that monitors your heart rate, breathing and blood oxygen concentration. The sleep study can be conducted at a sleep center or in your own bed with an at home study kit (supplied by a sleep professional). I did an at home study where I was wired up to a device that was strapped to my chest. After the study is complete the recorded data is then analyzed and a report is then explained to you.

Asleep On The Job?
Credit: Photo by FindYourSearch

Treatment of sleep apnea can come in many ways, some of these include:

  • CPAP machine – stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure and provides pressurized air that assists to keep the airway clear by forcing an increased flow of air during each breath in.
  • Medications – not common but can be effective for sleep apnea caused by the brain.
  • Oral appliances – objects that are designed to help hold the tissue in the mouth (tongue etc.) from obstructing the airway. These are not always effective
  • Surgery – removal and limiting movement of excess skin to help prevent obstruction. This is very invasive and is not always effective.

This Is What My CPAP Looks Like

CPAP Machine
Credit: Image from Wikipedia

After undergoing my sleep study and being diagnosed with sleep apnea I decided to go with the CPAP machine and have been using it for about two years now. The difference between before and after is incredible and I often wonder how I could put up with being sleep deprived before. I decided to go with the CPAP machine because it has the highest success rate of all of the options. While it was not cheap it has been worth the money many times over. Even though I sound like Darth Vader I will continue to use the device as it has changed my life for the better.

If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea than I suggest going to see a sleep professional. There are many around and the cost of an at home sleep study is not much, especially when you are able to get a good night’s sleep.

Please help your friends by sharing this article.

I Hope You Sleep Like Sleeping Beauty Here!

Sleeping Beauty
Credit: Photo by Rachel Calamusa

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Amazon Price: $30.00 $15.88 Buy Now
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  1. "Sleep Apnea." Wikipedia. 01/03/2014 <Web >
  2. "What Is Sleep Apnea." National Heart, Lung And Blood Insitute. 01/03/2014 <Web >
  3. "What Is Sleep Apnea." Youtube. 01/03/2014 <Web >

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