HomeHealthSnoring:  Apnea Interrupts Sleep

Sleep Problems and Apnea

Sleep apnea is a common condition that affects the sleep of many Americans throughout the country. Because most Americans are overworked anyway due to extremely hectic schedules and too many responsibilities and obligations, it is even more important that these people get a good night's rest. However, there are many things that disrupt a restful sleep, and sleep apnea is one of these. Feeling tired all the time is enough irritation in itself, especially when people have many things to accomplish each day, but the persistent fatigue can also become dangerous when people tend to fall asleep at inopportune times, such as when driving.

Sleep Apnea: A Serious Condition

Simply stated, sleep apnea is the stopping of breathing momentarily while sleeping. What basically happens is that the upper airway or throat collapses, making it impossible for air to travel from the mouth to the lungs. Although no air is passing through the airway, the lungs and the body are still trying to breathe, meaning that the body is under some stress trying to perform a task that is momentarily impossible. Sleep apnea episodes only last for a few seconds, usually around ten, until the body awakens itself to resume breathing. Even though the body technically "awakes," the person suffering from sleep apnea does not usually realize that this is happening and will continue sleeping through the night--though not restfully--without any knowledge of what is going on.

Because sufferers of sleep apnea are often unaware of these nightly actions, it often takes the observation of a bedmate to diagnose the problem. In almost all cases, sleep apnea, or the short episodes of non-breathing, will be accompanied by heavy, loud snoring that happens when the person momentarily awakes and air flow is restored. This snoring is usually exceptionally sudden and noisy, so it commonly awakes the bedmate or others close by. In addition to snoring, other symptoms of sleep apnea include feeling groggy and tired even after sleeping for eight hours at night and falling asleep during the day while watching television,reading or doing other activities. Because sleep apnea disrupts the sleep pattern so persistently throughout the night, people suffering from this condition are unable to get the rest they need and are continually fatigued.

Sleep apnea can be minor or severe, but all cases can be dangerous, either because of the non-breathing periods themselves or because of the fatigue that results. In some cases, being overweight can contribute to sleep apnea, so losing extra weight could help. Stopping smoking, not drinking alcohol late at night, and checking allergies and medications could all help prevent or lessen sleep apnea.

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