Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that currently affects approximately eighteen million Americans. Unfortunately, this sleep disorder is often ignored due to the fact that the leading sleep apnea symptom is simply loud snoring, which many people do not consider a concern severe enough to warrant a consultation with a physician. There are two forms of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is normally seen in people who are overweight or have a narrow throat or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. This disorder is seen more often in men and older people, although anyone of any age or weight can suffer from this condition. Other factors attributed to causing obstructive sleep apnea include heredity and the use of chemicals that relax the throat muscles, such as alcohol or sedatives. This form of sleep apnea is literally caused by the relaxation of the throat muscles, which then prohibits the proper amount of oxygen necessary to supply the body from flowing through the airway.
Central sleep apnea is usually caused by medical conditions that can prohibit the brain from functioning properly in regard to sending signals to various parts of the body that control the breathing rhythm. These medical conditions include, but are not limited to, disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, muscular dystrophy, stroke, injury to the spinal cord, and brain tumors. A non-medical cause would be visiting and sleeping in a high altitude environment, to which your body is unaccustomed.
The result of either form of sleep apnea results in a severe lack of quality sleep. Not only is a person unable to comfortably sleep and dream, one will often wake with sore muscles or a stiff neck. Feeling fatigued throughout the day is also common. Sleep apnea can cause more serious medical complications as well, including cardiovascular conditions and poor or negative responses to medications and even surgical procedures.
Sleep apnea treatment is varied and is dependent on the severity of the individual condition. It could be resolved simply by losing weight and reducing the intake of alcohol and sedatives. Sleeping properly with a comfortable sleep pillow that properly supports the neck and head is extremely important. Because of this, “memory foam” pillows are commonly being recommended to sleep apnea patients by their doctors. Sleeping on one’s side can also be beneficial. For other people, surgery might be necessary to remove unnecessary tissue from the airway. There are devices that supply increased oxygen pressure which have been found effective for people suffering from sleep apnea, and also dental devices worn at night that assist in opening the airway.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea, be sure to consult with your physician. The disorder can be so severe that a person might find themselves falling asleep at work or while driving. Once treatment has been discussed with a doctor and implemented by the person suffering from the disorder, the individual will usually begin to experience immediate symptom relief and will begin to sleep better and establish a proper sleep pattern.
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