The Dangers of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is easy to miss. Gasping for breath in the middle of the night may seem extreme enough for anyone to remember but 90% of sufferers may not realize they have it at all. Left unchecked, sleep apnea can significantly affect your health.
Sleep apnea is a cycle of disrupted breathing where you experience between five and 30 pauses in your breath each hour. You may not be aware of it, but each interruption alters the level of carbon dioxide in the blood, a signal for your brain to partially wake you up so your airway becomes wide enough for oxygen to enter. Normal breathing resumes, often with a loud snort or choking noise.
It is often the bed partner, not the sufferer, who picks up on the problem. The symptoms of sleep apnea include frequent silences during sleep with sudden awakenings (full or partial), plus choking or gasping noises. Because sleep apnea disrupts restful sleep you may wake up feeling like you havent slept at all, or have difficulty keeping your eyes open during the day. Snoring does not necessarily mean you have sleep apnea, although heavy snoring could also be a symptom. To aid diagnosis, consider keeping a sleep diary where you or your partner records disrupted sleep and your feelings and energy levels on waking.
What are the dangers of sleep apnea? If symptoms are severe, or worsen, see a doctor or sleep specialist immediately. Left unchecked, oxygen and sleep deprivation from sleep apnea increase the risk of heart attack, high blood pressure and sexual dysfunction as well as the likelihood of car or work accidents. Continuous suffering has an effect on mental clarity and can increase irritability and depression. This can affect the bed partner too.