Health & Medical Sleep Disorders

Severe Sleep Apnea: What It Is and What You Can Do About It

Millions of American people suffer from a sleeping disorder called severe sleep apnea. Many of us are at high risk of experiencing and developing this condition. Proper understanding and knowledge about severe sleep apnea is important not only for you but also for those close to you.

You may be wondering what severe sleep apnea is all about. Severe obstructive sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder wherein people experience a blockage of their airways, keeping air from freely moving into a person's lungs when sleeping. These episodes can occur as many as fifty times per hour to a sleeping person and each episode can last as long as ten or more seconds, causing people to snore, wake up breathlessly breathing and oftentimes feeling a choking sensation. The effects of sleep apnea go well beyond snoring and restless sleep however. A number of negative side effects take place in the body including elevated blood pressure, low blood oxygen levels, high carbon dioxide levels and a disturbed heart rhythm. The sympathetic nervous system takes a beating as the sufferer struggles to breath and his body tries to compensate.  Unless a person or someone close to them recognizes the symptoms of this disease, he / she will continue to suffer not only from loss of sleep but also be at risk for many medical complications associated with severe sleep apnea such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and even death.

Severe Sleep Apnea Symptoms

There are a several common symptoms regarding severe sleep apnea although it is not easy to determine, if you are trying to self diagnose the condition. Even though their sleep is disrupted, severe sleep apnea sufferers generally don't recognize their own symptoms because they are not conscious enough during sleep to see them.  Here are some signs to look for. People with sleep apnea often snore very loudly. In fact, as they search for stop snoring devices, they often discover the underlying cause of their snoring problem is severe sleep apnea. In addition, their breathing repeatedly pauses for a second or two of silence, often followed by choking type sounds.  Sleeping restlessly might suggest that the person is having difficulty breathing.  As they struggle to breathe more normally, this can cause a great deal of movement. Other symptoms include frequent trips to the bathroom to urinate, daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, irritability and morning headaches. If some or all of these symptoms seem familiar, you or your loved one needs to see a sleep specialist and be tested for sleep apnea. The only definitive way to diagnose severe sleep apnea is through a sleep study called a Polysomnography.

Causes of Severe Sleep Apnea

Among the leading causes of severe sleep apnea is obesity. Ironically, while obesity can contribute to the exacerbation of sleep apnea symptoms, sleep apnea itself can also cause the sufferer to gain weight. Any way you look at it, weight gain is a no win situation. Therefore, one of the first sleep apnea treatment options is to lose weight. Another common treatment is the use of a sleep apnea machine, especially while weight loss is occuring.  Overweight or obese people have a much higher percentage of this disorder. Obese individuals that have thick necks (17 inches or larger) are more prone to obstructive sleep apnea since the excess tissue in their neck and nasal passages can constrict, blocking the airways thereby causing sleep apnea.  Also at risk are those with smaller jaws as well as those with high blood pressure.

There are other complaints commonly associated with severe sleep apnea. Among these are difficulties in concentration frequently associated with a feeling that sleep was not refreshing. People can experience impotency or reduced sexual drives, large mood swings and heightened irritability. After bouts of severe sleep apnea at night, many sufferers can experience night sweats or wake up with a dry mouth.  They are also likely to have severe headaches at mornings, experience heartburn, gain more weight than normal as well as experience changes in personality and/or lapses in memory. Since they are sleep deprived, their intelligence ratio is likely to decrease. They are also likely to experience grogginess upon waking up.

Severe sleep apnea is a very destructive and life- threatening condition. Untreated, the sufferer is at greater risk of  heart attack or stroke. Leaving severe sleep apnea untreated can worsen the situation and may eventually lead to death or disability. If you suspect you or a loved one has severe sleep apnea, it is important to see a doctor who can perform the necessary diagnosis so you can receive proper treatment. Severe sleep apnea can be successfully treated.

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