If you're wondering whether there's a cure for sleep apnea, you probably already suspect that you or someone you know is suffering from the condition. Often signified by chronic snoring or gasping for air while sleep, sleep apnea is often an annoyance to both the person who suffers it and their sleeping partner. In fact, apnea is often diagnosed only after a sleeping partner has complained at length about his or her partner's snoring.
There are two kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive apnea and central apnea. Chronic snoring that result from a blocked or partially blocked airway always signifies obstructive apnea. When air squeezes past the blockage, unusually loud snoring occurs, at which time the apnea sufferer moves from deep sleep to light sleep. The breathing interruptions commonly occur between 5 and 30 plus times per hour on three or more nights per week and result in daytime tiredness due to lack of deep sleep. Unlike obstructive apnea, central apnea is characterized by shallow breathing that result from the brain's failure to communicate the proper breathing actions to the breathing muscles, which causes a person to gas for air instead of snore. Other signs of both obstructive and central apnea include morning headaches, memory or learning problems, irritability, poor concentration, changes in mood and dry mouth or throat upon awakening.
Central apnea is less common than obstructive apnea, but they are equally dangerous to a person's health. While the greatest drawbacks of apnea may seem to be snoring and daytime tiredness, there is much more at stake concerning a person's long-term health. Left unaddressed, apnea can increase a person's risk for hypertension, high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, depression and even heart attack. But it also has a negative overall affect on a person's immune system. Like all sleep problems, apnea compromises the immune system by making immune cells less adaptable and therefore less efficient at fighting off infection and disease. With this in mind, it's essential that you or your partner determine whether apnea is the cause of nighttime breathing disorders as soon as possible.
The first step in addressing apnea is to visit a physician or sleep medicine clinician to determine the apnea's cause. In some cases, apnea has a physiological cause such as enlarged tonsils, a narrow windpipe opening or obesity, while in other cases behavioral and psychological factors may come into play. The most accurate way to determine the presence of apnea and its specific cause is to undergo a polysomnogram at a sleep medicine clinic. A polysomnogram is a non-invasive procedure that consist of placing small sensors on the head, face, neck, arms chest and finger to record vital signs and physical movements as the patient sleeps.
Perhaps your partner has learned to live with your snoring and you've become accustomed to going through the day feeling tired, but it's important to remember that sleep apnea can compromise your long-term health, not to mention your ability to experience the vitality that comes with receiving a good night's rest.