If you are snatched awake throughout the night to gasp for air, you may have sleep apnea. Do not delay getting a doctor’s assessment to confirm or rule out whether you indeed have this disorder. More importantly, a physician can determine which of the three types of sleep apnea you have and prescribe the proper treatment.
Sleep apnea is a relatively common disorder that can present itself in a few different ways. It’s a serious condition that must be treated correctly, depending on the type. An accurate diagnosis and treatment plan can help you avoid more harmful health risks.
It is estimated that over 100 million people worldwide suffer from some form of sleep apnea. The word “apnea” means a temporary or transient succession of breathing. These episodes occur when you are sleeping.
Sleep apnea wakes you up throughout the night, usually manifesting as the need to gulp for air. Not getting a good night’s sleep is in itself bothersome. But other serious consequences may develop due to untreated sleep apnea. They include:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Oxygen flow reduction
- High blood pressure
- Cognitive impairment
People with sleep apnea are often fatigued during the day and may also experience memory loss, irritability, and headaches. Any of these issues can put your health at risk, but sleep apnea can increase those risks.
Many people have trouble falling or staying asleep for reasons unrelated to sleep apnea. For instance, insomnia is usually caused by stress or trauma. Although insomnia can cause eventual health problems, it is not based on a physical issue, unlike sleep apnea.
You may have trouble sleeping but are unsure if you should see a doctor. However, some signs indicate you should check for sleep apnea, such as:
- Loud snoring
- Breathing stops (confirmed by someone else)
- Gasping for air
- Dry mouth
- Headache and sleepiness upon awakening
Signs will vary depending on the individual, but It is never a good idea to self-diagnose. If you exhibited signs of sleep apnea, you must see a doctor for a formal evaluation and receive proper treatment.
As mentioned before, there are three types of sleep apnea, and each one has varying causes and treatments. The two main types are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA is caused by repeated partial collapse or obstruction of the upper airway. Your brain signals the presence of a reduced oxygen level. As a result, gasping for air occurs as the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to force the airway to open.
Among the risk factors for OSA are family history, chronic nasal congestion, and diabetes. Smokers and asthmatics may be at risk for OSA. Again, a thorough individual assessment is required to diagnose OSA.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
There are important differences between OSA and CSA. With CSA, breathing is repeatedly disrupted during sleep. However, the cause is not due to airway blockage. CSA occurs when the brain does not signal the muscles to breathe; it is a central nervous system disorder.
Central sleep apnea may be caused by congestive heart failure, high altitudes, and heavy opiate ingestion. Some symptoms of CSA are similar to those of Obstructive Sleep Disorder. Again, only a medical professional can diagnose the correct sleep apnea.
In addition to OSA and CSA, there is a third type of sleep apnea that must be considered.
Mixed Sleep Apnea
You may have a sleep disorder called mixed sleep apnea that combines obstructive sleep and central sleep apneas. Although, one form of the condition may be more predominant than the other. OSA and CSA are serious and complicated to treat but have been successfully treated by medical professionals for many years.
Sleep Apnea Treatments
There are various means available to treat all forms of sleep apnea. Commonly, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine is used to deliver air pressure to OSA patients. The treatment plan for CSA can be quite different, however.
Treatment for CSA is dependent upon the underlying condition of sleep apnea. For example, CSA treatment for a congestive heart failure patient is treating the heart. CPAP, supplemental oxygen, and other therapies also treat CSA.
Mixed sleep apnea is treated with CPAP because it addresses symptoms caused by both OSA and CSA. Other patient health issues are simultaneously treated as needed to improve overall health.
Not All Sleep Apnea Is the Same
It is never a good idea to guess about your health. If you are having sleep issues, let your doctor know. Your medical professional can evaluate you for the disorder and create a treatment plan based upon the type and severity of your condition. Sleep is vital for feeling rested and living a quality life, so don’t take a chance with your health.