Many of us think of snoring as nothing more than a nuisance. We never think that regular and loud snoring could be a sign of a more serious problem. Loud and frequent snoring can be a sign of a breathing disorder known as sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder exhibited by loud snoring and irregular breathing. In sleep apnea, breathing will repeatedly stop and start again as the person sleeps. The way the person breathes while sleeping is affected by sleep apnea. Breathing can stop for between 10 to 20 seconds at a time. These stops in breathing can occur more than a hundred times at night. They result in interruptions in normal sleep rhythm. As a result, people with sleep apnea will spend most of their night in a light sleep instead of deep restorative sleep that is needed for rejuvenation.
Most people with sleep apnea experience drowsiness during the day, poor concentration and have slow reflexes. They are therefore at a higher risk of being in an accident.
Symptoms and signs of sleep apnea
Identifying sleep apnea can be difficult. This is especially because it occurs when you’re sleeping. However, it can be identified with the help of a loved one who can record your habits while you’re sleeping.
The most common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Prolonged pauses in breathing while snoring followed by gasping or choking.
- Drowsiness during the day after a full night’s sleep.
- Headaches in the morning.
- Problems with learning or memory. A general inability to concentrate.
- Irritability, depression and mood swings. Some people exhibit complete personality changes as a result of the lack of sleep.
- Frequently waking up to urinate.
- Sore throat or dry mouth upon waking up.
Sleep apnea in children
Contrary to popular belief, sleep apnea is not restricted to adults. Children can also be affected by sleep apnea. The following are common symptoms of sleep apnea in children:
- Loud snoring
- Bizarre sleeping positions
- Bedwetting especially in children who had already stopped bedwetting
- Night terrors
- Excessive perspiration while sleeping
Types of sleep apnea
- Obstructive: Caused when the soft tissue at the back of the throat blocks the airway during sleep. It is the most common type of sleep apnea.
- Central: Involves the central nervous system. It occurs when the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that are responsible for controlling breathing. This type of sleep apnea is seldom exhibited by snoring.
- Complex: It is a combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea.