Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing briefly over and over again as they sleep. These sleeping pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and may occur as many as 30 times an hour. During an episode of apnea, your brain becomes starved of oxygen and your body is pulled out of natural deep sleep so that your airway can open and let air in. As a result you end up feeling drowsy and fatigued during waking hours. Your reflexes and concentration are also affected which can increase the risk of accidents.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This occurs due to partial blocking of the airway as a person is sleeping. Due to oxygen deprivation, the brain signals the body to awake partially in order to take a breath. A person may then wake up with a loud gasp, sigh or snort.
- Central Sleep Apnea: Here, the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing to stimulate air intake causing your breathing to stop and start repeatedly.
- Mixed Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apneas.
Left untreated, oxygen deprivation and fragmented sleep caused by sleep apnea can result in hypertension, high blood pressure, weight gain, mood and memory problems and heart disease.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
The following increase the risk of sleep apnea:
- Being Overweight: If you have excessive fat deposits around your upper chest area, you may increase the risk of obstructing your airway and developing obstructive sleep apnea.
- Smoking: Smoking increases the chances of developing sleep apnea threefold due to inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airways from toxins in cigarettes
- Neck Size: People with a large neck circumference (more than 17 inches for men and 16 inches for women) have a higher risk of developing sleep apnea.
- Age and Gender: Persons over 40 are more likely to contract sleep apnea. This condition also appears to affect more men than women.
TAKE THIS SIMPLE TEST TO CHECK YOUR CHANCES OF HAVING SLEEP APNEA. This test is called the “ANC” test. It stands for Adjusted Neck Circumference. Start by measuring the size of your neck in inches with a tape measurer (don’t go by your shirt size), and multiply that number by 2.5. Then to that number add 4 points if you have high blood pressure or diabetes. If you snore add 3 more points to that number. Finally if you have been heard to gasp or choke while sleeping add another 3 points to the score. So how did you score?
If your score is less that 43 you have a low probability of Sleep Apnea
If your score is between 43 and 48 you have an intermediate probability
of having Sleep Apnea
If your score is above 48 you have a high probability of having Sleep Apnea.
If you are worried about your snoring or the possibility that you have sleep apnea, consulting your dentist or doctor can help. There are treatment options available that can mitigate the apnea and make it possible for you to get a full night’s sleep every night.