According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Sleep Apnea is “a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.”
It often goes undiagnosed, however, because many people just pass it off as regular snoring – despite the fact that there is actually a pretty big difference.
What Is The Difference Between Regular Snoring And Sleep Apnea?
Snoring occurs when the loose, fatty tissue in the soft palate and airway vibrates as you breathe. This occurs during sleep because the muscles in this part of the body relax more when you aren’t awake – thus making the tissue even more loose and susceptible to vibration.
This ‘vibration’ of the tissue is what causes the noises that you hear when someone snores.
But while sleep apnea may include snoring as a symptom, snoring and sleep apnea are not necessarily the same thing.
An ‘Apnea’ is technically a ‘break in breathing’ that deprives your body of oxygen for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. There are actually two different types of apneas. There is Central Sleep Apnea, which happens in the brain and is much less common… and Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which happens in the throat/airway. This is the most common type of sleep apnea, and is also the type that we are going to discuss in this post.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
Sleep Apnea occurs when the loose, fatty tissue in the soft palate/throat area actually collapses in on itself during sleep… and either partially or completely closes down the airway.
This blocks the flow of oxygen, and causes you to stop breathing for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds.
This process is sometimes silent – but much more commonly, it will sound like severe snoring… and in some cases, you may hear the sufferer ‘gasp’ in their sleep.
You see, when the brain realizes that it is being deprived of oxygen, it actually ‘wakes’ the sufferer just enough to allow them to tighten their throat muscles and take in a breath of air. In such cases, the individual usually does not wake up enough to realize that they are awake… but they do wake up enough that their sleep is disturbed!
This can repeat many times every hour, and can sometimes be a reoccurring problem, all night long.
And this is where the danger lies with Sleep Apnea.
What Is The Real Danger Of Sleep Apnea?
The real danger with this sleeping disorder is not that it causes snoring… but that it disrupts your sleep. A healthy night’s sleep is essential to overall health and well-being. People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes, and are at an increased risk for one day suffering from a stroke.
There are other dangerous diseases and conditions linked to sleep apnea as well… and it is certainly safe to say that at least a certain amount of the danger can be attributed to sleep deprivation.
What Can You Do About It?
Sleep Apnea may be a common problem, but that doesn’t mean that there is no solution. CPAP technology is one of the most common therapies used to treat Sleep Apnea, but there are also some other solutions as well. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, is another that is commonly prescribed. There are also some pretty awesome stop-snoring devices that can also be used to help you overcome sleep apnea.
But… first and foremost, it is very important to understand that Obstructive Sleep Apnea is no joke. If you suspect that you may have it, then you should talk to your doctor about it. A sleep study may be in order to determine if you need treatment, or at least to verify/diagnose it.
Then, you can move on to find a treatment that may work for you.
Just remember that you have to be proactive about your health and well-being if you want to stay on top of it… and that the same is true with problems like this. Being self-aware, and taking action are the two best initial steps that you can take.