Sleep Apnea: The New Silent Killer
Sleep apnea means sleeping without breathing. The definition sounds like a title straight out of a horror flick. Unfortunately, the “nightmare” title is not far from what’s happening in reality. This breathing disorder truly is a silent killer.
More than 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. What’s worse, up to 80% of these people don’t even know they have a breathing disorder. Millions of people go to bed at night unaware that they do so with their brains and body starving for oxygen.
In this article, we explore the types, effects, and symptoms of sleep apnea.
What is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a disorder marked by very shallow breathing or repeated interruptions in a person’s breathing (apneas) while sleeping.
Research reveals that these apneas can occur hundreds of times per night, often without the person’s recollection.
Apneas are most likely to happen when a person is about the enter a state of sleep known as REM. Snoring or obstruction of the airway usually awakens the individual.
This constant awakening of up to 60 or more times an hour disrupts the healing and rejuvenating effects of sleep.
As a result, the brain and body are oxygen starved. Deprived of oxygen, those who have sleep apnea often suffer from other chronic or fatal diseases.
What are the Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two types of sleep apnea:
1. Central Sleep Apnea
Here, the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. There is no airway obstruction. Instead, the central nervous system causes the breathing disruption. The disconnect between the brain and the lungs results in a state where the body forgets to breathe.
2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Here, the brain does tell the body to breathe. But because there is an airway obstruction, the person has difficulty breathing.
There are several causes of this blockage. One common cause is when the base of the tongue wholly or partially blocks the airway.
Sleep Apnea Effects
Because of oxygen deprivation, sleep apnea sufferers are susceptible to multiple diseases. On top of that, they must also deal with the effects of sleep disturbance as they wake up multiple times a night trying to catch their breath.
Here is a list of some of these adverse effects:
- Poor performance – Disrupted sleep does not allow the brain and body to benefit from the healing and rejuvenating effects of sleep fully. As a result, the brain is foggy. This brain fog results in inadequate performance.
- ADD/ADHD – Children who suffer from sleep apnea may be at greater risk for ADD or ADHD. An oxygen-starved brain fails to develop, which may lead to attention disorders.
- Depression – Breathing disruption reduces a person’s quality and quantity of sleep. This reduced sleep negatively affects the brain’s neurochemicals. These chemical changes can trigger anxiety, irritability, and depression.
- Dementia – Studies suggest that oxygen deprivation to the brain and insufficient deep sleep may be contributing factors for dementia in adults.
- Cancer – Research published in 2012 discovered a link between sleep apnea and death related to cancer. Insufficient oxygen stimulates the body to form new blood vessels to harvest more oxygen. The newly formed blood vessels feed growing tumors with oxygen and nutrients, enabling cancer cells to thrive.
- Cardiac Arrest – One study tracked over 10,000 Americans diagnosed with sleep apnea. During a five-year period, 142 participants died of sudden cardiac arrest. Those who died shared three common predictors: age of 60 or older, oxygen saturation of less than 78 percent when sleeping, and experiencing over 20 episodes of breathing disruption per hour when sleeping.
- Diabetes – In 2014, research conducted with 8,500 participants discovered a link between obstructive sleep apnea and diabetes.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Be on a lookout for these signs. You or someone you know might be suffering from sleep apnea:
- Loud Snoring
- Excessive sleepiness
- Existing chronic disease such as high blood pressure or insulin resistance
- History of cardiovascular disease, stroke, atrial fibrillation, early dementia or cancer
- Depression, irritability, anxiety, suicidal thoughts or erectile dysfunction
If you have these symptoms, or someone you know has them, we encourage you to get professional help as soon as possible.
Millions of people go to sleep every night without even knowing that they suffer from the silent killer known as sleep apnea. If you have the symptoms mentioned above, you cannot afford to wait any longer. Can sleep apnea be cured? Yes, it can be cured. Get professional help now to get a complete diagnosis and sleep apnea treatment.