What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that is characterized by a pattern in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly. This condition, which is one type of sleep-disordered breathing (SDB), is divided into three main categories–obstructive, central and mixed, which is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. By definition, one apneic event is when a person stops breathing for a period of 10 seconds or more, which can happen hundreds of times per night without the individual being aware.
Obstructive sleep apnea, the most common form, occurs for primarily three main reasons. First, while we sleep our muscles lose tonality and relax as they are rejuvenated. Although the tongue, which is a muscular organ, typically maintains its tone, it may still relax in conjunction with the muscles and tissue in the back of the throat and cause the airway to narrow or even completely close off as one inhales. Similarly, excessive tissue in and the structure of the upper airway and jaw can cause this occurrence as well. As the airway collapses and closes off due to these factors, there is an obstruction in the airway, a blockage, leading to a reduction in airflow or potentially no airflow into and out of an individual’s lungs altogether, hence obstructive sleep apnea.
As this occurs and air cannot flow into your lungs, the oxygen level of your blood drops and thus your organs do not receive the oxygen they need to properly function. In order to not suffocate, your brain acts as an alert mechanism to arouse and awaken you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. While this event is often accompanied by a rapid increase in heart rate as well as gasping or choking, many times it is so brief you will not even know or remember it occurring.
While obstructive sleep apnea includes a blockage of the airway to stop airflow, in central sleep apnea your brain fails to successfully communicate with your muscles that help you breathe so that there is no effort made to breathe. In other words, it is a disorder of the central nervous system.
Lastly, mixed sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive and central, where the airway is obstructed and there is no effort made to breathe.
In each case, your body continually wakes up many times per hour, possibly hundreds of times per night, which prevents your body from receiving the restorative nature and benefits of sleep and impairs your ability to access the deep, restful stages of sleep that all humans so desperately need.
If you or a loved one has experienced or is experiencing any of the common symptoms of sleep apnea, please call us today for a free consultation. The effects of untreated sleep apnea are too costly and the health consequences and risks are too severe to ignore.
Do not wait until it is too late. Call or contact us today!