Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. Sufferers of sleep apnea may experience anywhere from five to thirty breathing pauses within one hour. Because sleep apnea has been linked to increase risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attacks and strokes, it can be a very serious condition.
Who suffers from sleep apnea?
Unfortunately, sleep apnea is a common problem for Americans. It’s estimated that approximately 22 million people in the United States suffer from the disorder. Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women, and excess body weight increases your risk as well. Although sleep apnea can occur at any age, it typically develops in people over the age of forty.
Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea
There are several indicators that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, including, but not limited to:
- Snoring loudly
- Awakening abruptly with shortness of breath
- Headaches in the morning
- Difficulty staying asleep at night and awake during the day
- Problems focusing
- Unexplained irritability
Sleep apnea treatment
In moderate cases, lifestyle changes can serve as a treatment for sleep apnea. Losing weight and quitting smoking can both help offset the condition. However, in more severe cases, there are surgical and therapeutic options.
A common therapy utilized in treating sleep apnea is called the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). With this treatment, an air pressure machine delivers air through a mask that is worn during the night. Oral appliances can also be used to reposition your jaw and reduce snoring.
When to consult a doctor for sleep apnea
Though you should seek medical attention as soon as you suspect you may be suffering from sleep apnea, the following are signs that require immediate consultation:
- Loud snoring that wakes others
- Awakening from shortness of breath
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that limits oxygen’s flow throughout your body. If you’re worried you may have sleep apnea, it’s best to consult your doctor right away. If you’re in need of a caregiver in Ohio or Kentucky, visit mercy.com.