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Demystifying Sleep Ailments: Sleep Apnea

April 28, 2015

Demystifying Sleep Ailments: Sleep Apnea

While we all might love sleep, there are those of us who sometimes struggle with an assortment of sleep problems and ailments. These problems can range from the mildly annoying to those around us to serious medical conditions, but one this is common: They are not always as well understood as they should be.

This week we are going to demystify: Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea:

You might have heard of sleep apnea. Literally! Sleep apnea is sleep disorder that characterised by in infrequent or irregular breathing pattern. This disrupted breathing pattern can either be periods of shallow breathing or pauses in the breathing. To be classified as suffering from sleep apnea, these incidents need to occur five times within the space of an hour. This irregular breathing pattern causes carbon dioxide to build up in your bloodstream and will trigger the brain to wake you up in order to re-establish stronger breathing, once the blood has been re-oxygenated, sleep will continue. Depending on the severity of the condition, the sufferer may or may not be even aware of these moments of waking during the night.

Dangers: While most people who suffer from sleep apnea are unaware of it, it can have a serious effect on their waking life. The most serious risks include increased risks of other medical conditions such as diabetes, as well as reduced daytime awareness and reaction time. This is caused by a decrease in your oxygen levels in your body while you sleep, leading to you feeling less refreshed when you wake up in the morning. Basically you will still be tired despite having several hours of sleep. This tiredness will then have knock-on effects such as reduced reaction time (exceptionally dangerous while driving!), vision problems such as blurriness (ditto!), as well behavioral effects such as moodiness and irritation.

Risk Factors: While sleep apnea can affect anybody, the risk for it can be increased by age, weight, body structure, allergies and several others.

Treatment: There are several methods of treatment that are available at the moment, but before these are explored let’s take a look at basic problem solvers. Mild cases of sleep apnea can be treated with behavioral therapy and a change in lifestyle. Exercise, diet and avoiding alcohol or sedatives can help to relax the throat muscles and allow for a better nights sleep. In some cases it has also been found that sleeping on one’s side will relieve many of the effects. In more severe cases, there are a variety of sleeping masks and other equipment that can be obtained in conjunction with medical advice. In the worst cases, surgery can be recommended.

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