Sleep apnea happens when an obstruction in the rear of the throat, such as the fleshy part of the throat, causes air to not be able to get through to the lungs and breathing stops temporarily while sleeping for up to 10 to 20 seconds. This process can happen hundreds of times per night, which will cause the natural sleep pattern to be interrupted.
Each time an episode occurs, the individual partially wakes up or stays in the light sleeping pattern and never gets into deeper sleep where we really get out rest from sleeping.
The deprived sleep results in tiredness, poor concentration an increased possibility of accidents the next day due to drowsiness. Serious health problems can ensue as well including heart difficulties, high blood pressure and circulatory problems. It is also dangerous during the night when the breathing stops, if it should stop for too long of a period, it could trigger a heart attack.
The kind of sleep apnea where the fleshy part of the throat obstructs the air passage is called obstructive sleep apnea and is the most common type. Central sleep apnea is less common as it involves the central nervous system in which case the brain does not signal the breathing muscles to breathe.
When the airflow stops during the obstructive sleep apnea, the oxygen in the blood decreases and the brain reacts by partially waking the individual enough to cause breathing to occur. The person will not probably remember the episodes, but it is usually enough to cause the throat muscles to tighten and have the airway open.
In order to identify whether or not a person has sleep apnea, the advice of a physician should be sought. A sleep study will probably be advised where the individual will spend the night in a sleep laboratory where observations will be made in the sleeping habits. The diagnosis is not easily made by lay people since not all patients that have sleep apnea snore, and all people who are snoring at night have sleep apnea.
Treatments for sleep apnea, once a person is diagnosed as having it are losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding sleeping pills, alcohol, and sedatives. Also the avoidance of coffee and heavy meals that are taken just before going to bed at night is recommended. Sleeping on oneâs side at night can help, but there is no guarantee that a person will stay in that position all night.
If the sleep apnea is moderate to severe in nature, and the natural treatments for sleep apnea have not been successful, then a CPAP machine may be just the ticket. CPAP means Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure. The machine has a mask that pumps a constant stream of air which keeps the air passages open while sleeping. It allows for normal breathing and eliminates all of the tiredness and drowsiness that accompanies sleep apnea.
Of all the treatments for sleep apnea, the CPAP machine has proven to be the most successful. It eliminates all of the problems that the disease presents and allows the individual to lead a normal life.