Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes a patient’s breathing to repeatedly stop and start throughout the night. Some of the symptoms include loud snoring, not feeling rested after sleep, irritability, and others. Snoring is not the main indicator of sleep apnea, but it is extremely common amongst patients with sleep apnea.
However, sleep apnea is much more than just snoring, and it can be dangerous to your health if not treated. It may be tempting to brush off a sleep apnea diagnosis, but you could be putting your life at risk. Without intervention, sleep apnea can take a toll on your body, and it can even lead to premature death.
What Are The Signs of Sleep Apnea?
Depending on the type of sleep apnea you have, you can experience a range of symptoms.
The most common form of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. With obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles in the back of the throat relax and create a blockage in the airway. A narrowed or blocked airway makes it difficult for your body to receive enough oxygen. When your body doesn’t receive enough oxygen, your brain tries to wake you in order to regulate your breathing.
You may not even realize that you are waking several times throughout the night because the moment is so short. This arousal process can happen any number of times during your sleep, which will prevent you from getting meaningful rest. Along with snoring, you may experience a choking sensation or wake up gasping for air.
Another form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. This occurs when the brain doesn’t send the right signals to the muscles in your body that control your breathing. Essentially, your brain doesn’t tell your body to breathe properly, so you don’t breathe at all for a short period of time. You may not be aware that you stop breathing unless another person observes the incident.
If you don’t do a sleep study or have someone monitor your sleep, there are other ways to identify sleep apnea. Lack of rest may make you irritable, have a hard time staying awake or paying attention during the day, or give you a headache.
Why Treat Sleep Apnea?
Other than snoring and headaches, sleep apnea can have significant complications without treatment.
Patients with sleep apnea are more likely to develop heart problems or high blood pressure. The continued fluctuation of blood oxygen levels creates a massive burden on your heart and cardiovascular system. Over time, it can weaken your heart and increase your chance of a heart attack, stroke, or even sudden death.
Lack of proper sleep can take a toll on your entire body. In fact, the stress that your body endures from continuously waking itself up can put you in a constant state of stress.
You can eventually develop problems with your immune system, which will make it harder for you to recover from illnesses. A weakened immune system can leave you susceptible to getting sick and developing chronic illnesses.