Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder characterized by periods of shallow breathing and/or pauses in breathing during sleep. Each pause in a patient’s breathing (an apnea) can last anywhere from several seconds to several minutes. These apneas may occur from five to thirty or more times per hour and the abnormally shallow breathing instances (hypopneas) can be as frequent also. Over time, these interruptions to regular breathing take a toll on the patient’s body and overall health.
How Do You Know if You Have Sleep Apnea?
Individuals with sleep apnea may have it for years without knowing it. He or she is rarely aware of having breathing difficulties during sleep, even upon awakening each morning. It is usually discovered by others witnessing the individual during his or her episodes or by a physician who suspects sleep apnea because of detrimental effects the condition produces on the sufferer’s body and overall health.
Typical symptoms are daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, awakening with a very sore and/or dry throat, the beginning of learning or memory difficulties, sexual dysfunction, loud snoring and restless sleep, and sleep-deprived partners as a result of the previous symptoms.
The Different Types of Sleep Apnea
There are three forms of sleep apnea. Central apnea (CSA) only affects 0.4 percent of those with a sleep disruption diagnosis and occurs when breathing is interrupted by a lack of respiratory effort by the body. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), affecting 84 percent of apnea sufferers, is the result of breathing being interrupted by a physical blockage to the airflow even though there is respiratory effort. Snoring is common with OSA. Complex sleep apnea (CompSA) is a combination of the two and includes 15 percent of patients diagnosed with the condition.
Where Does CPAP Fit In?
Treatment for OSA may begin with behavioral therapies and other natural remedies. Many sufferers find that they need much more aggressive treatment to regulate their blocked breathing. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is the most highly effective treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea. This air pressure is delivered by a CPAP machine through a hose attachment to a facial mask worn by the patient during sleep. The CPAP machine is set to control the degree of pressure the patient’s sleep study has shown will be most effective for opening the airway and freeing breathing effectively. The CPAP mask is chosen to fit well with no air leakage so the patient can sleep comfortably and without interruption.
Some patients find that the masks they are given are extremely uncomfortably and fail to use their machines on a regular basis because of this. Some even quit using their CPAP machines altogether. Both of these are very dangerous things to do.
The risks of serious side effects from chronic sleep apnea are real and progressive. They are also life threatening. These patients are at risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, liver problems, arrhythmias and sleep deprived driving accidents. The best way to assure that CPAP patients continue to use their machines to continue their therapy is to carefully try out the right CPAP face mask for the patient to wear comfortably.
Can Sleep Apnea Kill You?
Sleep apnea may sound like something simple, but it is a serious condition with potentially deadly consequences. Proper treatment is vital and CPAP therapy leads the list. CPAP therapy is most effective when the user has a great fitting, comfortable and properly sealing CPAP mask. Try several different kinds until you find the one that feels great to you.