The first time I heard about sleep apnea, I thought it was simply another term for snoring, or a certain type of snoring. Later I found out that there is a big difference between the two.
Snoring occurs when the passage of air in the throat is partly unstructured, usually because of a narrowing of the airway, making the air flow through soft tissues in the back of the throat. These soft tissues then begin to vibrate and make that familiar snoring sound. When a person snores, he or she continues to breathe through the slumber. That loud sound of snoring usually does not bother the sleeper, only the bedside partner.
Apnea is the act of holding your breath for a long time, very much like divers do when they explore the shallow sea floor without the help of air tanks. Sleep apnea is the condition of involuntarily holding your breath during sleep. It occurs in the same region of the throat and can be accompanied by very loud snoring, but the difference is that the throat becomes completely blocked during sleep, sometimes lasting from a few seconds to a few minutes, making the sleeper choke and suddenly wake up in the middle of the night, gasping for air. This can happen several times throughout the sleep.
What is cause for concern is that the next day the person usually does not have any recollection of struggling for breath during sleep. Most of the time, the bedside partner is the first person to detect such an occurrence. The partner may notice repeated silences from the other side of the bed, indicating signs of the person holding his breath or having breathing difficulties. If undetected and left untreated, as is normally the case with persons sleeping alone, this common disorder can be life-threatening, as an extended period of apnea can be dangerously lethal.
If you sleep alone and find the following signs, they may indicate that you went through sleep apnea during the previous night sleep. First of all, there is the condition where you still feel un-refreshed in the morning after a night's sleep. You will probably experience heads because of the low supply of oxygen, or your throat is dry and sore from the friction with heavily obstructed air flow. Because you have not been getting enough sleep, you will notice being sleepy or drowsy during the daytime. These are probable indications, but if you remember suddenly waking up in the middle of the night, sometimes sweating, while gasping for air, it is a very possible symptom for sleep apnea, and not because you had a nightmare (in fact, some nightmares may have been induced by sleep apnea).
There are various reasons why the throat is obstructed, and there are already cures for sleep apnea. So, if you detect these symptoms, please learn more about the possible solutions to overcome this common but serious problem.