Sleep apnea is one of the sleep disorders that have the potential to develop into a much more serious medical condition, which is characterized by numerous breathing stops while sleeping. People that suffer from sleep apnea are usually snoring loudly, and they tend to feel tired when they get up in the morning.
Specialists divide sleep apnea disorders into two main types. The first type of sleep apnea is obstructive, being a more common form that occurs when the throat muscles relax. The second type is the central sleep apnea and it is much less common, being a form of apnea that occurs when the brain does not send the correct signals to the muscles that control the breathing process.
Once a person thinks he has sleep apnea, he must go and see a doctor right away, as treatment is the only way of making sure the problem does not aggravate. But what are the symptoms of sleep apnea, in the first place? How can a person know if he or she is suffering from this medical condition?
It is important to understand that the symptoms that characterize the obstructive and central apnea can overlap, so differentiating them can be pretty difficult. Among the most common symptoms, there are: sleepiness during daytime (an indirect proof that the person is not getting enough quality sleep at night), snoring, a characteristic of the obstructive sleep form, breathing cessation during sleep which can be noticed by the spouse or by another person, sudden awakenings characterized by shortness of breath (frequently encountered with central sleep apnea), waking up with a dry mouth and throat, headaches, insomnia and attention problems.
People should know that once they start snoring so loud that they disturb others, they should see a doctor. Also, when they wake up due to a shortness of breathing, or experience pauses in breathing during sleep, it is time to go see a sleep specialist. Unfortunately, many people do not consider snoring as something that can be potentially serious. At the same time, not all people diagnosed with sleep apnea will snore while they are sleeping.
As mentioned above, obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles of the throat relax. These muscles control the soft palate, the tonsils and the side walls of the throat and the tongue. When these muscles are relaxed, the airway narrows and can even get closed, so smaller and smaller oxygen quantities are inhaled. When there is less oxygen in the blood, the brain will wake the person up, so that the airway will reopen again. These awakenings can sometimes be extremely fast; many people are not usually aware of them, as they happen during the night.
People that suffer from sleep apnea will also make a lot of noises like chocking and gasping. These sounds may be heard many times per hour during sleep at night, and this can explain the morning fatigue, the dizziness and the headaches. If this happens to you, it simply means that sleep did not have the needed quality. Often time, though, the person with obstructive sleep apnea will not be aware of these interruptions during sleep, and may even consider that they have had a good sleep at night.