Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that impedes the way your body breathes while sleeping and results in a restless and poor night's sleep. There are two main types of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Just like the name suggests, obstructive sleep apnea is when your airway becomes partially of fully blocked while you sleep. For some, this occurs when the tongue and/or muscles in the throat become more relaxed than they should and hinders proper airflow while you breath. Other possible causes of sleep apnea are having tonsils that are larger than your windpipe that obstruct airflow to your lungs. Being overweight can also cause sleep apnea because the inside of your windpipe can become narrower.
When your brain senses a lack of oxygen, it will trigger you to rouse from your sleep so your airway becomes unblocked. Before waking, you may make a choking, gasping, or snorting sound. Many times this period of wakefulness will be very short and you may not even remember it happening, although it still disrupts your sleep cycle. This series of choking awake and falling back asleep could happen hundreds of times throughout the night. No wonder sleep apnea sufferers feel groggy all the time!
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain ceases to send the signals to your lungs that tell them to breath. The result will be the same as obstructive sleep apnea, where you will gasp awake and fall back asleep throughout the night, causing a lack of deep and restful sleep.
This condition might be happening as a result of other medical issues you are experiencing. Obesity, Parkinson's disease, problems that affect the brain stem, or heart failure all could be causes of central sleep apnea. Some may have a mix of both obstructive and central sleep apnea, this is known as mixed sleep apnea.
Is Sleep Apena Serious?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is either a result of, or could result in serious medical complications. Being groggy and fatigued all day is bad enough, but the sleep deprivation caused by sleep apnea could lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, heart attack & stroke, type two diabetes, headaches & migraines, or heartburn & acid reflux.
In short, sleep apnea not only affects your short-term health, it also could lead to very serious diseases in the future. If you think you may have sleep apnea, or are experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea, contact Dr. Hedgecock right away!