If you feel tired or exhausted all day long no matter how much sleep you get at night, you might have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can be potentially dangerous if it affects your health and wellness. In many cases, you may not even know that you have sleep apnea until you see a primary care physician for care. Here are things to know about sleep apnea, how it affects your health and what you can do to treat it.
What's Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea generally occurs during the night and causes you to experience small pauses, or breaks, in your breathing. Some people experience very shallow breathing with sleep apnea. The pauses of breath can occur multiple times throughout the night and last up to 20 seconds or longer.
Primary care doctors recognize several types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and complex. The most common of the disorders is obstructive, which develops when the tissues found in the back of your throat relax too much and block the air passage leading to your lungs. Central sleep apnea occurs when your brain fails to tell, or signal, the muscles that control breathing to work or move. Complex sleep apnea occurs when you have both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
The most common sign of obstructive and central apnea is loud snoring. You might also wake up multiple times throughout the night gasping for breath. In the morning, instead of feeling rejuvenated and fresh from a good night's sleep, you feel tired or exhausted. Your other symptoms may include headaches, irritability and memory loss. The lack of oxygen in your body affects the functions of your brain, heart and other critical organs, which may increase your risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other dangerous conditions.
Getting help for your sleep disorder is critical to staying healthy and safe.
What Can You Do to Diagnose and Treat Sleep Apnea?
One of the things you may want to do is ask your loved ones about your nighttime sleep. People with sleep apnea tend to wake up their loved ones when they snore. Your loved ones may also witness your pauses in breath, which can alarm and scare them. Write down everything your loved ones reveal about your sleep disorder in a diary, such as when your spouse first noticed your snoring or pauses in breath.
Finally, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your sleep disorder and possible treatments. A doctor will generally examine you to see if you have an underlying health complication that causes sleep apnea, such as obesity, smoking and allergies. A doctor may also ask about your symptoms to help determine if you have sleep apnea. Your diary can help you answer many of a physician's questions.
A primary care doctor may ask you to participate in sleep apnea studies or tests to complete their diagnosis. The studies can occur in your home or at a monitored facility. The tests will monitor how your brain, heart and lungs function when you sleep. For instance, sleep apnea tends to increase your heart rate and blood pressure. Once they have a correct diagnosis of sleep apnea, a primary care specialist will begin your treatment.
You should understand that your treatments will be based on the type of sleep apnea you have. For instance, if you only have obstructive sleep apnea, a doctor may have you use a CPAP machine at night. The CPAP machine keeps your airways open by providing a constant flow of oxygen to your lungs. But if you have complex sleep apnea, you may need to use an adaptive servo-ventilation machine that not only keeps your airways open, but also monitors your respiration, or breathing rate. The machine adjusts the flow of air into your lungs based on how slow or fast your breathing rate becomes. For instance, if your breathing slows down too much because your brain isn't commuting with the muscles of your lungs, the machine increases your airflow. A doctor will discuss the best treatment options with you before prescribing anything.
For more details about sleep apnea, contact a primary care doctor at an office like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc. today.