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Sleeping Disorders: The Concise Guide to Sleep Apnea

March 20, 2018


Sleeping Disorders: The Concise Guide to Sleep Apnea

As bed supply specialists, the Bed King team is often asked to weigh in on mattresses and bedding for individuals who suffer from sleeping disorders. In a previous article, we took a look at insomnia; today we discuss sleep apnea, which is defined as a condition where the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow.

What Is the Definition of Sleep Apnea?

Also sometimes spelled as 'apnoea', sleep apnea is a very serious condition that can become dangerous if left undiscovered or untreated. The term means 'without breath' and refers to short periods of time during the sleep cycle when the patient will completely stop breathing, normally only for a few seconds at a time. The seriousness of the condition depends on how long the individual stops breathing and varies a lot.

There are three main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type and is caused by an obstruction in the airway that depletes oxygen levels in the blood. The blockages cause a choking response that briefly awakens the patient up to 30 times per hour, which means they cannot get a good night's sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea is similar to obstructive sleep apnea, but presents without the snoring aspect. It is caused by the failure of brain to transmit signals to the body to breathe.
  • Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive- and central apnea.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Due to the fact that the patient is often unaware of their symptoms because it appears only during sleep, the condition often goes undiagnosed. In fact, research has shown that as much as a quarter of sufferers only sought treatment about 4 years after they realised that they weren't fully rested. Symptoms include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Excessive snoring
  • Episodes of no breathing during sleep
  • Breathing through the mouth/loud breathing during sleep
  • Depression
  • Dry mouth or throat
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Weight gain

What Kinds of Treatment are Available?

Once sleep apnea has been diagnosed by means of an an in-lab sleep study or a home sleep apnea test, a course of treatment will be prescribed by the attending physician. Depending on the severity of the sleep apnea and how it presents, treatment can be provided by a pulmonologist, otolaryngologist, or respiratory therapist, as recommended by the patient's primary care provider or diagnostician. The condition may be addressed by losing weight and exercising, or require surgery such as palatoplasty, a tonsillectomy or adenoid removal. In certain cases CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) may also be prescribed.

The information contained herein is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment in any manner. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding any medical condition.


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