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Home » What is Sleep Apnea and How Does it Affect Me?

What is Sleep Apnea and How Does it Affect Me?

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders seen in the medical community today. This sleep disorder is characterized by frequent and often prolonged disturbances in the normal breathing cycles during sleep.

 What Is Sleep Apnea?

These interruptions, called apneas, are caused by the collapse of soft tissue in the airway, which prevents oxygen from reaching the lungs. A number of factors make a person more at risk for apnea:

  • Obesity
  • Overly Large Tongue
  • Sinus Cavity Problems
  • Smoking

It is important to note that even individuals without these risk factors can still have apnea.  Sleep apnea not only disrupts the normal sleep cycle while making you feel tired and lethargic, it also has a number of long-term health effects, some which can be quite severe. Understanding sleep apnea is critical to treating it and overcoming the health effects it brings with it.

What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

sleep apnea chicago

“More than 18 million American adults have sleep apnea. It is very difficult at present to estimate the prevalence of childhood OSA because of widely varying monitoring techniques, but a minimum prevalence of 2 to 3% is likely, with prevalence as high as 10 to 20% in habitually snoring children. OSA occurs in all age groups and both sexes” (Sleep Foundation). Seemingly minor symptoms like bad snoring are ignored and overlooked as being normal. It is important that we work on understanding sleep apnea and the related symptoms to improve diagnosis and treatments.

Sleep Apnea In America – Statistics

sleep apnea stats

Untreated sleep apnea is a potentially harmful condition that can have a huge impact on other health factors, which is why it is important to talk to a sleep specialist as soon as possible or inform your general practitioner if you experience any of the following signs and symptoms:

Sleep Apnea Nighttime symptoms

  • Loud, forceful, persistent snoring
  • Witnessed moments where breathing stops
  • Choking or gasping sounds during sleep
  • Waking up choking or feeling unable to breathe
  • Restless sleep and waking up frequently
  • Frequent bathroom visits each night

Sleep Apnea Daytime symptoms

  • Frequent headaches upon waking for first few hours
  • Excessive drowsiness and fatigue during the day
  • Poor concentration, lack of focus, and memory problems
  • Depression, anxiety, irritability, or sudden mood changes
  • Inability to stay awake during normal activities
effects of not enough sleep

The Risks of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can have serious short and long-term health risks if left untreated.  Because someone suffering from apnea has pauses in breathing, some which can last up to a minute, their bodies are under a lot of stress and it affects many aspects of their health and overall wellness. When it comes to understanding sleep apnea it is important to know some of the risks associated with the condition:

  • Untreated sleep apnea has been shown to increase the risk of heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, stomach problems, depression, anxiety, mental focus, and more.
  • CPAP masks can help with apnea symptoms but must be carefully cleaned each and every day to avoid the chance of infection from bacteria or fungi that tend to breed in the damp environment of the machine’s hoses and masks.
cpap mask elmhurst
  • Many people have apnea and are not even aware of it, which means they aren’t getting treatments and are more likely to suffer from health effects associated with the condition.
  • Because of the lingering effects, especially the sleepiness and decrease in mental focus, those who suffer from sleep apnea are more than twice as likely to be involved in an auto accident while driving than someone without apnea.
  • Weight gain is a vicious cycle of sleep apnea. Being overweight makes you more prone to instances of apnea, but studies have shown that apnea makes your body less likely to burn fat easily which compounds the problems.
  • Sleep loss can lead to irreversible brain cell damage. This causes a decline in memory, recall, focus, and cognitive functions which can impact just about every area of your day to day life.

weight gain from loss of sleep

Get Help Today For Sleep Apnea In Elmhurst IL

According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are four things you can do starting today to help reduce sleep apnea severity and frequency and get a better night’s sleep, and these can be continued even once you begin treatment.

  • Lose weight. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factor associated with sleep apnea and when no other cause is present losing weight can actually reverse symptoms totally in some people.
  • Avoid alcohol. Because it is a depressant of sorts, too much drinking and drinking close to bedtime can cause the muscles to relax too much and lead to worsening apnea issues.
alcohol affects sleep patterns
  • Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking damages the throat and lungs and can make snoring and apnea flare-ups worse as well as affecting other areas of your body and overall health.
  • Lifestyle Improvement. Small changes like sleeping on your side rather than your back or being more mindful of your diet and exercise levels can help reduce apnea flare-ups.

“People who don’t sleep well are more apt to suffer memory loss, impaired cognitive ability, and lack of mental focus. It’s important to sleep 7-9 hours each night to feel and perform your best. It’s particularly important for children and teens to get the sleep they need so that they can grow and develop, both at home and in school” (Sleep Foundation).

We know that apnea is harmful and has wide-reaching and potentially devastating effects on our health and wellbeing. Understanding sleep apnea is key to fighting it and overcoming it. Now that you know the basics of this condition, you can begin your fight too.

Contact your general health care provider or look for a sleep expert such as Kopp Dental & Associates in your area and take that first step. You can now live a happier and healthier life, without the fear and worry that comes from sleep apnea. There are tools available to diagnose and treat apnea in yourself or a loved one and there is hope for finally getting a good restful night sleep. The first step is getting diagnosed and the talking with your doctor about what options are best for you!

Call Kopp Dental & Associates near Elmhurst to set up a sleep apnea consultation.

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