If you happen to have the doubtful pleasure of sleeping next to a person suffering from Sleep Apnea, chances are that you are invariably waiting for the “other shoe. Couples in this situation often develop a disturbed sleep cycle, and you, become a perfect case for secondary insomnia syndrome. This, of course, is a cooked up syndrome, but one which many of us go through night after night.
Sleep Apnea is a condition where a heavy snorer is given to periods of total silence, in between the bouts of noisy cacophony which resonates in our brains long after they cease.
An “apnea” is defined as a period of time when breathing comes to a total halt, or is markedly reduced. It would mean a period of non- breathing for 10 seconds or more. It also means a reduction in the transfer of oxygen to the blood when breathing stops.
Patients suffering from Sleep Apnea may not even be aware of their condition till such time as they report some or all of the following symptoms:
Change in personality
Rapid weight gain
Reduced sex drive and impotence
High blood pressure
Depressed mood and/or irritability
Snorting, gasping, choking during sleep
Frequent nocturnal urination
Confusion upon awakening
Sleep that is not refreshing.
Given all these symptoms, which may not be attributed to other causes, and if the patient is a heavy snorer, chances are he/she may be diagnosed as suffering from Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
Also note that sleep apnea is more prevalent in adult males than in females, and at times may also be genetically flavored.
Keeping in mind the above definition of Apnea, and its correlated symptoms, we can understand the gravity of SLEEP APNEA, wherein we don’t even realize that we have stopped breathing.
During the apneic event, the person is unable to breathe in oxygen and to exhale carbon dioxide, resulting in low levels of oxygen and increased levels of carbon dioxide in the blood. The reduction in oxygen and increase in carbon dioxide alert the brain to resume breathing and cause an abrupt arousal.
Central Sleep Apnea
This type of sleep apnea is caused by imbalance in the brain’s respiratory control centers, and makes up 0.4 % of all sleep apnea cases.
When a person with central sleep apnea sleep, there is a delay in the signals sent from the neurological feedback mechanism that is monitoring the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood.
Due to this delay, it is difficult for the body to keep the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood constant. The body will try to adjust the respiratory rate based on the signals that the body should have received earlier.
This means that the respiratory rate isn’t what it should be to stabilize the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood. Your body will be constantly changing between apnea and hyperpnoea (the opposite of apnea).
During a central sleep apnea the person will not breathe, and not surprisingly, will not make any attempt doing so either. This is followed by a period of rapid breathing, to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the blood.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
When people talk about sleep apnea, this is the type of sleep apnea most of them are referring to. Covering 84% of all sleep apnea cases, it is the far most common type of sleep apnea, and possibly the easiest to threat.
Obstructive sleep apnea has the same causes as normal snoring, but is far more serious and harder to eliminate.
Complex Sleep Apnea
As many as 14% of all sleep apnea cases, are cases where the patient is suffering from both of the two types of apnea that I’ve mentioned so far. In many cases, central sleep apnea is developed when the patient has been suffering from severe obstructive sleep apnea for some time. The reason for this still remains unclear.
If you are to find yourself in this unlucky group of sleep apnea sufferers, then you will have to cure both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. But don’t worry, since with today’s technology, it is not as hard as it might sound at first.