Waking up with a sore, dry throat and feeling tired and drowsy even after a long night sleep are all symptoms of a condition that many suffer without knowing; sleep apnea. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and a mixture between both. Sleep apnea is a respiratory cessation or reduction during sleep.
Central sleep apnea is a failure of the brain to activate the muscles related to breathing during sleep and obstructive sleep apnea is when the airway collapses during sleep. In every case, it results in lack of oxygen. This can happen hundreds of times in a night. The person with this sleep disorder wakes up many times to regain breathing but most of the time will not remember anything about it.
Although it may sound like just having a bad night, the reality is that it’s a serious disorder that can have harmful effects in every aspect of life.
The constant awakenings during the night causes the person with sleep apnea to be fatigued all day. They find difficulty concentrating in their working tasks, they’re slower; they experience poor memory and they easily fall asleep during daytime. If not treated, this condition can lead to poor job performance or even job impairment.
Students, whether adolescents, children or adults, with untreated sleep apnea can also have problems achieving their academic goals. They find studying, learning, reading and focusing very difficult.
Due to the lack of consistent regular sleep, people with sleep apnea do not have their five senses alert during the day. This can be very risky for themselves, as well as for others. Activities like driving can result dangerous; a person with sleep apnea can easily fall asleep while driving or working. Thus, sleep apnea may be responsible for motor vehicle accidents or accidents on work sites.
Sleeping is essential for our good health, therefore, a restless sleep can produce a great number of health problems. During sleep apnea, a person experiences a lack of oxygen for 10 seconds or more. The body is awakened to take in oxygen again. The reduction of oxygen in the blood increases blood pressure and strains the cardiovascular system. That’s why most people with sleep apnea develop high blood pressure, which increases the risk of a stroke or a heart failure.
Sleep apnea can also debilitate the immune system making the body more susceptible to diseases and slower to healing. Other illnesses associated with untreated sleep apnea are diabetes and obesity.
During daytime, untreated sleep apnea makes people irritable, moody, and upset for no apparent reason. They become difficult people, especially if they are not aware that they have this disorder. Sleep apnea can also lead to depression. In summary, it deteriorates the person’s quality of life.
At night, people with sleep apnea wake up so many times, that they inevitably disturb their partner by snoring, gasping, gagging, etc. This can be very frustrating and lead to conflict in their relationship.
Sleep apnea is a threatening, progressive sleep disorder that gets worse with age but that can also be easily treated. Treatment may include behavioral therapy, oral appliances, losing weight, surgery or just avoiding bad habits; such as, tobacco, alcohol and sleeping pills.
This article was written by Angelica Figueroa, a current grad student studying the pyschology of sleep and a writer for Saatva Mattress.