The most widespread type of sleep apnea is what is known as obstructive sleep apnea and is a condition characterized by periods in which breathing ceases while sleeping. At times this condition is called obstructive sleep apnea syndrome or sleep apnea syndrome.
In most healthy individuals the muscles that are responsible for controlling the upper section of the throat ensure that the air flow in and out of the lungs is both continuous and steady. While you sleep these muscles relax slowly but nonetheless still manage to do their job satisfactorily. However those individuals who have sleep apnea frequently have airways that are narrowed for one reason or another and therefore when the throats muscles relax this causes the airway to partially or completely close up thereby preventing the passage of air to the lungs. Labored breathing and snoring resulting in a sleep apnea episode will then be seen.
In some individuals breathing can also stop completely during periods of deep sleep and medical experts and researchers are unclear about just why this occurs. These times during which breathing ceases can last for as long as ten seconds or more in severe cases and are called sleep apnea episodes or apneic events.
These sleep apnea episodes lead to a degree of awareness that you have stopped breathing and you will gradually struggle to start breathing again which is usually accompanied by choking, gasping or even snorting.
Thereafter it is usual to fall into a period of light sleep before the cycle of sleep apnea episodes starts again.
The result is that an individual sufferers from sleep that is fragmented and does not allow them the amount of rest which they need each night. This can lead to a variety of health problems including excessive daytime tiredness. One of the reasons for this daytime symptom is simply that the oxygen level in the blood stream falls significantly during an apneic event resulting in a condition known as hypoxia.
It is very important to realize that a lot of individuals who suffer from sleep apnea are unaware of their problem and frequently it must be left to others to point out the problem. Sleep apnea sufferers are usually aware of being very tired throughout the day but do not need know why.
The commonest warning signs of sleep apnea include loud snoring, waking in the morning and still feeling tired, morning headaches, problems with concentration, changes in personality, falling sleep at appropriate times, hypertension, excessive levels of activity (in children only) and swelling of the legs.
The first step in diagnosing sleep apnea bought to a trip to the doctor who will take a full medical history and look at your neck, throat and mouth for signs of any growths or abnormalities. If sleep apnea is suspected your physician will refer you for a sleep study and what is known as a polysomnogram (or PSG). This test records brain waves, eye movement, breathing rate, muscle activity, heart rate, oxygen levels in the blood and the amount of air which is being both inhaled and exhaled while you sleep.