If you’ve woken up feeling cranky and sleepy, even though you’ve slept in for the entire night, then you might have something called sleep apnea. According to the CDC, approximately 12 million US adults are suffering from this sleeping disorder.
While sleep apnea does not pose an immediate threat to our health; the doctors warned that if the condition is left unchecked and unmanaged, it can lead to any number of health issues such as head and heart strokes, high blood pressure and depression.
Also known as obstructive sleep apnea or OSA, this issue can seriously affect the quality of your sleep. OSA is often called obstructive because, during sleep, your airways might become obstructed.
The medical literature states that these obstructions usually occur when the soft tissue found at the back of our throats collapses, thus impeding normal air circulation through the airways.
There is another form of sleep apnea, rarer than obstructive apnea. This form bears the name of central sleep apnea, and it usually occurs when our brain is incapable of transmitting the correct electric impulse to the breathing muscles.
Apnea’s symptoms resurface during the night when we are in REM sleep. Individuals suffering from this condition will have multiple pauses in their breathing. In the mildest forms of apnea, a patient might have 5 to 10 pauses within an hour.
In a patient with a severe form of sleep apnea, the number of these breaks increase up to 100 per hour.
During this event, the brain is awoken by the fact that there is a pause in our breathing rhythm. However, this happens during REM sleep, when we aren’t fully aware of what’s going on around us.
The only thing that reminds us of the events is a feeling of crankiness and sleepiness in the morning. Moreover, sleep apnea might also cause a choking-like sound during the breathing pauses.
Like any other condition, apnea can be treated if it’s diagnosed correctly. To receive any treatment for sleep apnea, you must first visit a neurologist or a sleep specialist.
The doctors will decide whether or not to subject you to a polysomnogram (sleep study), which measures different body parameters during sleep including blood pressure, brain activity and eye movement.
If the diagnose is confirmed, the patients will receive a medical device which is capable of alleviating the symptoms of sleep apnea. One of these devices is called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure system) and consists of a mask worn over the mouth or nose during sleep.
The CPAP ensures that you will have no more pauses in breathing during sleep. Another medical device used to treat sleep apnea is the Upper Airway Stimulator.
UAS is a rather new approach to sleep issues. The device is surgically implanted in the patient’s throat, and using a remote control; the patient can turn the device on at night, where it stimulates the throat’s muscles to let the air passed unimpeded and turned off again during the day.
In conclusion, if you wake up several times feeling exhausted and cranky then it would be best to consult a specialist, because, the chances are that you might be suffering from sleep apnea.