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Interrupted Sleep? You may have sleep apnea

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Sleep apnea is gaining recognition as a serious sleep condition that affects millions of Americans. Cleveland Clinic defines sleep apnea as "a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night." Sleep apnea deprives the body of sufficient oxygen that it needs to be productive and is a major sign of long term health consequences such as high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, pre-diabetes and diabetes, depression, and daytime fatigue." The average person may have no idea they have sleep apnea unless they are aware of the symptoms, and even then it is not an absolute unless you are tested. The one symptom you may look for is loud, chronic snoring. Unless you have someone around you while sleeping or falling asleep you would not otherwise be aware of this major symptom. Some of the other symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • choking of gasping while sleep
  • pauses in breathing
  • morning headaches
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • insomnia due to difficulty staying asleep
  • waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • frequent need to urinate during the night
  • trouble concentrating
  • memory or learning problems
  • moodiness, irritability or depression

A common symptom associated with sleep apnea is drowsiness during the day. Drowsiness can affect your ability to pay attention and your reaction response, for instance, while sitting in school, working, and driving. Driving, in particular, while drowsy is especially dangerous. Not only is your response reaction delayed but you are actually falling asleep at the wheel. This is the cause for many major traffic accidents.

Risk factors associated with sleep apnea may include having a family history, being overweight, smokers, individuals with large necks, high blood pressure, and being male though females are affected as well. If you are at risk or display the symptoms, it is advisable to get tested.

Treatment for sleep apnea may include wearing a mask called CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) at night that helps with airflow. Also, a device called mandibular device, that goes into the mouth to help prevent the tongue from blocking the throat for those with mild sleep apnea. And, for more severe cases, surgery is recommended where the malformed tissue involved in airway blockage is removed - this includes large tonsils or a deviated septum.

As with any disease or condition, don't self-diagnose, see your physician, get tested and get treated.



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