Understanding Sleep Apnoea

We equate sleep with rest and rejuvenation. However, sleep apnea patients often find restful sleep elusive. The term sleep apnea refers to a disorder where breathing stops completely for over ten seconds while sleeping. This interrupts sleep and causes feelings of drowsiness and lack of energy during daytime.

睡眠呼吸機 breathing should continue in an uninterrupted manner for the body to function normally. In sleep apnea patients, breathing stops many times during the night – as many as four to five hundred times each night.

In most cases, breathing is interrupted for half a minute. At that point, the patient wakes up with a start and often, with a loud snort. He or she then begins to breathe again. Subsequently, the person drifts off to sleep and the cycle repeats itself.

Obviously, if this pattern is continued throughout the night, restful sleep is impossible.

There are two basic types of sleep apnea. The more common one is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Here, the breathing interruption is caused by throat tissues blocking the airway. The other type is called central sleep apnea (CSA). In this case, parts of the brain responsible for controlling breathing fail to send signals to the muscles involved in the breathing process, which results in interrupted breathing. The number of people with central sleep apnea is estimated to be only about ten percent of the total number of apnea sufferers.

This condition affects people of both sexes and can occur at any age. However, it has been observed that sleep apnea tends to be more common in middle aged men who consume alcohol and are overweight.

One of the most common symptoms of apnea is daytime drowsiness. While apnea is certainly not the only cause of daytime sleepiness, it is a leading cause. It is said to be the real culprit behind many road accidents.

Sleepiness arises because of two factors. First, interrupted sleep reduces the total time spent sleeping. And secondly, constant interruptions to sleep results in an inability to enter and sustain deep sleep. The latter is highly damaging because many restorative body processes take place during deep sleep. Lack of such sleep can cause many health problems.

While attempting to confirm or deny the presence of sleep apnea, the doctor will do a physical examination of the throat region to look for possible obstructions. He will also look into the patient’s medical history and may do a sleep study called polysomnography. This involves sleeping in a specialized laboratory so that various physical indicators can be measured during sleep. These indicators include airflow, stages of sleep (light sleep, REM sleep, deep sleep, etc), blood oxygen levels, heart rate and respiratory effort, among other parameters.


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