Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by recurrent episodes of interrupted breathing during sleep. These episodes, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to several minutes and can occur hundreds of times throughout the night. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly and frequently, and may wake up feeling tired and groggy even after a full night's sleep.
There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is caused by a physical blockage of the airway, usually due to the relaxation of the muscles in the back of the throat. CSA, on the other hand, is caused by a failure of the brain to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to a number of co-morbidities, or related health problems. Some of the most common co-morbidities associated with sleep apnea include:
High blood pressure: Sleep apnea can cause the blood vessels to constrict, which can lead to high blood pressure. This, in turn, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Heart disease: People with sleep apnea have a higher risk of developing heart disease, including heart failure and arrhythmias.
Diabetes: Sleep apnea can make it harder for the body to process glucose, which can increase the risk of developing diabetes.
Depression: People with sleep apnea often feel fatigued and groggy during the day, which can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.
Cognitive impairment: Sleep apnea can cause decreased oxygen to the brain, which can lead to cognitive impairment and memory problems.
Treatment for sleep apnea typically involves using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine, which delivers a steady stream of air to the airway to keep it open. In some cases, lifestyle changes such as losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sleeping on your side can also help to reduce symptoms of sleep apnea.
It is important to see a doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnea. A sleep study can help to confirm the diagnosis and determine the best course of treatment. With proper treatment and management, sleep apnea can be controlled and the risk of developing related health problems can be reduced.