Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder where there is a 10 second or longer interval in between each breath. In order to be considered apneic there must also be a neurological arousal, which is a change in EEG frequency of more than 3 seconds, and/or the blood oxygen must be desaturated by 3-4% or more. A significant case of sleep apnea has 5 or more of these apneic episodes each hour. These facts are discovered by using a sleep test called a polysomnogram.
There are 3 different types of sleep apnea:
Central sleep apnea – This happens when the respiratory system does not put out adequate effort. A chemical imbalance in the brain makes the respiratory controls operate ineffectively.
A delayed reaction to the levels of Co2 in the blood actually causes the sleeper to stop breathing and then start breathing again after a pause. If you were observing this event you would notice that there is no struggle or strange chest movements.
These events even happen during wakefulness. Since the brain cells need oxygen to survive extreme cases can lead to brain damage or even death.
Obstructive sleep apnea – The respiratory system is physically hindered from working efficiently. This form often occurs in people who or overweight, drink alcohol or smoke. People who have weak muscles and soft tissue surrounding the airpath through the throat; or other body features that cause a narrow airway are considered to be at risk for this type.
Complex sleep apnea (mixed) – Transition’s between obstructive and central sleep apnea. This often occurs to someone who has been suffering from the obstructive type for a long period of time.
No matter which type of sleep apnea that is occuring it is not something that the individual is conscious of. A witness can often tell that the sufferer is having apneic episodes. These sleep disturbances can go on for many years without even being noticed. The only thing that might be noticed is waking up and feeling unrested.
A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device is the most prescribed treatment for those suffering apneic symptoms. It actually forces pressurized air into the throat during sleep. This causes the airway to stay open and often cures the problem altogether.
If you are waking up feeling fatigued, you should ask someone to observe you during the night to see if there are any strange pauses in your breathing. If you are someone who snores a lot, this is often a telltale sign that there might be something wrong. Giving up on the alcohol, narcotics and cigarettes can give you a better nights sleep whether or not you suffer apneic symptoms.
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