Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder, which affects the breathing pattern while a person is asleep. The word "apnea" has a Greek origin and means "desire to breathe." It was first described in 1965. Sleep apnea is characterized by shallow breathing also called a hypopnea or by pauses in breathing known as "apneic events." These breathing pauses can last anywhere for about 5 to 35 seconds and can occur hundreds of times in a night.
The Three Forms of Sleep Apnea
Prevalence Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can occur in any age group and in both sexes, but is found to be more common in males. Out of over 100 million sleep disorder patients more than a quarter are said to be suffering from sleep apnea. It is most commonly found in people with high blood pressure or people who are overweight, or people who have some physical abnormality in throat, nose or upper path of the airway.
What Happens When A Sleep Apnea Patient Goes To Sleep?
When an apneic event occurs, the individual is unable to inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, which increases the level of carbon dioxide and decreases the level of oxygen in the blood. This change in oxygen and carbon dioxide levels alerts the brain to start breathing again leading to repeated awakening. On each event, a signal is sent from the neuro-systems to the upper airway muscles for the airway to be opened; thus breathing is resumed again, coupled with a loud snort or gasp. This type of sudden arousal is necessary for breathing to resume, which in turn prevents the patient from getting enough restorative deep sleep.
This type of sleep deprivation results in sexual dysfunctions, memory difficulties, daytime sleepiness, poor reflexes, irregular heartbeats and an increased risk of accidents. Serious health problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure (found in 50% of the cases), heart disease, stroke, and weight gain can also be associated with sleep apnea. However, if the symptoms of sleep apnea are diagnosed and treated, patients can start enjoying a refreshed and alert life every day.