If your partner tells you that your snoring keeps them up at night, you might have a serious problem. There can be a variety of issues that directly relate to and are the main cause of excessive snoring at night. From obesity and alcohol abuse to basic throat tissue blockage, determining what the exact cause of your snoring is can help you find a treatment.
Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. This condition occurs when a person stops breathing while they are sleeping, and an estimated 18 million people have a diagnosed case of severe sleep apnea, while many more are likely unaware of their current condition. The fact that sleep apnea patients actually stop breathing for up to a few minutes does make this condition deadly if the individual is unaware of it.
Two Types of Sleep Apnea
Before getting paranoid about potentially having a deadly sleeping condition, it’s important to understand that there are two different types of sleep apnea:
1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea- This type of sleep apnea is the more common type that occurs when the muscles in the throat relax. The brain sends signals to the muscles, which then attempt to take a breath. A blockage in the airway renders the attempt unsuccessful because it prevents adequate air flow through the passageway.
2. Central Sleep Apnea- This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send messages to the muscles to take a breath, and therefore, no breath is taken. This type of sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Central sleep apnea occurs in both infants and adults. Patients normally also suffer from other health issues, such as congenital disease, heart disease or cerebrovascular disease. Individuals who take an excessive amount of certain prescription medications can also suffer from central sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of a specific physical process that takes place:
1. The airway collapses first.
2. Your muscles attempt to take a breath unsuccessfully.
3. The blood oxygen level drops significantly due to a lack of breathing.
4. The brain signals the body to wake up when the amount of oxygen it receives has decreased.
There are many factors that contribute to a blocked airway, including a deviated septum, if the uvula and palate are long and tend to move a lot or if the back of your tongue falls back on the airway.
How is Sleep Apnea Deadly?
While sleep apnea, in the short term, can cause minor issues such as dry mouth, shortness of breath or excessive headaches, the long term health issues that occur in people who leave their apnea untreated can be deadly.
Possibility for an Increase in Injuries
Lack of sleep and oxygen can not only lead to physical fatigue, but can also cause a lack of judgment, reaction time and coordination. The sleep experts say that chronic sleep deprivation can alter not only your mood but your behavior and ability to complete everyday tasks. You are likely to fall asleep more often with little control to stop it, a condition that could lead to injuries or even death.
Increase Risk for Heart Disease
People who suffer from sleep apnea have an increased risk of dying in their sleep from a variety of heart complications, including stroke, heart attack or an enlarged heart. As sleep deprivation continues, high blood pressure will take a toll on the cardiovascular system and could lead to heart failure.
Mental disorders, such as depression and high levels of stress, are common among sleep apnea patients. These and other mental disorders can cause serious harm to patients and lead them to commit potentially fatal acts.
Whether you think you have central sleep apnea or obstructive sleep apnea, both conditions put you at risk for serious complications. Schedule a visit with your doctor to see what treatment options are available for you.