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5 Common Questions (And Their Answers) About Sleep Apnea
If you think you might be suffering from sleep apnea, the first step you take should be to consult with your doctor to get their informed opinion. If they feel it's necessary, they can send you for further testing to help determine what form of sleep apnea you may suffer from, and how severe it is.
If you think you might be dealing with it, it's wise to know a little about it before you visit the doctor so you better understand what they tell you. Here are 5 of the most common questions about sleep apnea.
1. What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a condition where a person stops breathing for between 10 and 60 seconds during sleep. These "apnea events" take place as many as 300 to 400 times a night. Some people wake up when this happens while others don't.
Those sufferers who wake up many times over the course of a night end up tired during the day and can suffer from other side effects like irritability, headaches and lack of concentration.
2. What Are the Different Types of Sleep Apnea?
There are 3 types of sleep apnea - central, obstructive and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea - or OSA - is the most common, affecting about 90% of the people who suffer from the condition.
In OSA, something blocks the trachea (the windpipe) and doesn't allow air to flow to and from the lungs. The blockage can be due to excess weight or excessive muscle relaxation in the throat and neck.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is related to the brain and its control of the central nervous system. With this type, the brain doesn't send the proper signals to the muscles that are used to breathe. CSA is a rare form of the disorder.
The third type - mixed sleep apnea - is actually a combination of the other two forms but has more in common with OSA.
3. How Common Is Sleep Apnea?
It's estimated that between 18 and 20 million Americans suffer from one form or another of sleep apnea. It's more common in men than women and is most common in people over 40 years old.
4. How Do I Know If I Have Sleep Apnea?
Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, extreme tiredness and/or lack of concentration during the day and stoppage of breathing in the night. If you exhibit any of these symptoms, your doctor can send you for a test called a polysomnograph which will help determine whether you are dealing with sleep apnea.
5. Is Sleep Apnea A Dangerous Condition?
If it isn't properly treated, sleep apnea can ultimately lead to other, more serious conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke.
Because of the increased drowsiness and lack of concentration brought on by lack of rest, sleep apnea sufferers are also at a higher risk for car accidents and/or workplace accidents.
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