Sleep apnea and snoring are terms often used interchangeably, yet they are not the same thing. Yes, sleep apnea can cause snoring, but it is a far more serious and involved medical condition than snoring alone.
Millions of Australians regularly experience snoring, and for many of them, simple lifestyle changes can make a big difference in improving the condition. But what is sleep apnea and how does it differ from snoring?
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea (or sleep apnoea) is a very serious medical condition that results in repetitive episodes of blockage of the upper airways during sleep. This blockage may be partial or complete.
Most people who experience sleep apnea will snore and wake repeatedly throughout the night, choking or gasping for air.
The Sleep Apnea Cycle
There is a specific cycle that sleep apnea will typically follow:
- As the person goes to sleep, the airway muscles and tissues relax and breathing slows
- Snoring results from the relaxed airway
- The airway becomes blocked due to this relaxation and breathing stops
- Heart rate slows and blood oxygen levels fall; as a result, the body struggles for air
- The brain becomes aroused and the airway is jolted open in order to catch a breath
- The sleeper violently gasps for air and sleep is disturbed
- Breathing rhythm returns to normal
These sleep apnea cycles may repeat many, many times throughout the night. A severe sleep apnea sufferer can experience a cycle up to every two minutes for some or all of the night.
Sleep Apnea Types
Sleep apnea comes in four forms; some are very much more common than others:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea is by far the most common form of this medical condition. It occurs as a direct result of airway blockage due to relaxation of the muscles and other soft tissues of the upper airway. Partial blockage is referred to as a hypopnea, while an apnea is a complete blockage.
- Central Sleep Apnea is a direct result of a malfunction within the respiratory centre in the brain (i.e. the central nervous system). This is a very uncommon condition, affecting very few overall sleep apnea patients. In central sleep apnea, the brain “forgets” to pass on neurological signals for the body to breathe. This can be a consequence of injury to the brainstem due to a stroke or tumour. It can also be more likely to develop in people with chronic cardio-respiratory conditions including congestive heart disease or atrial fibrillation.
- Positional Sleep Apnea is a direct result of the patient sleeping on their back. When they sleeping on their side, no sleep apnea episodes occur.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea occurs when the features of obstructive and central sleep apnea combine in one patient.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
There are numerous symptoms of sleep apnea, and some of these are the same as those experienced by snorers. For this reason, you need to be professionally, medically assessed for sleep apnea if you experience these symptoms on a regular basis.
- Feeling unrefreshed after sleep
- Daytime sleepiness or falling asleep unintentionally during the day
- Experiencing regular headaches upon waking
- Poor concentration
Sleep Apnea – Its Implications
Sleep apnea sufferers are at a significantly higher risk for a number of serious medical conditions. These include an increased heart rate and high blood pressure; heart attack; stroke (ischaemic stroke, which is due to blockages and blood clots in the blood vessels within the brain); impaired liver function; fatty liver disease; nerve dysfunction; Type II diabetes; erectile dysfunction; and depression.
Sufferers of sleep apnea are also much more likely to have difficulty losing weight. Due to disturbed sleep patterns and its effects, they are also much more likely to be involved in (or cause) a motor vehicle accident and to experience a work-related injury or even fatality.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
The first step to effective treatment requires understanding what causes sleep apnea.
Risk factors include:
- Almost 80% of people with sleep apnea are clinically obese.
- Older age
- Having a large neck circumference
- Tobacco smoking
- Alcohol consumption
- Sedative use
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Facial structural abnormalities such as a small lower jaw or chin, an abnormal bite, or a narrow soft palate.
Medical experts estimate that 80% of Australians who have sleep apnea remain undiagnosed.
Proper diagnosis of sleep apnea involves having a comprehensive overnight sleep study undertaken in a specialist sleep clinic.
Most initial treatments for obstructive sleep apnea involve lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol, quitting smoking, sleeping on the side, and losing weight as well as using the CPAP machine during sleep.
Choose ApneaRx to help with Sleep Apnea
The ApneaRx mandibular adjustment device may help alleviate the symptoms of sleep apnea. By gently repositioning the jaw during sleep, ApneaRx helps prevent the soft tissues from falling into the airway, causing blockage and impinging on airflow. It is a medical-grade device that is safe to use for all adults.
If you suspect you have sleep apnea, you should see your doctor for a full health and sleep assessment. Effective treatment of sleep apnea can control some symptoms very quickly. When sleep apnea is treated adequately, sufferers can potentially expect a longer lifespan, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, and better control of Type II diabetes as well as other health and wellness issues.
Contact your local doctor for an appointment to determine whether you have sleep apnea and begin the process of managing it for a better, longer life. At the same time, contact us to try the ApneaRx device for yourself. For your piece of mind, ApneaRx comes with a 30 day money back guarantee. This allows a risk free trial over 4 weeks to ensure you achieve results.