Happy New year to everyone. I hope all enjoyed their time with family and friends.

This is the beginning of a series on sleep disorders and their effect on your health and well being. This first article is a general overview and I will continue with several more that delve more into the implications of the lack of sleep.

Did you know that approximately 90% of people who snore may actually suffer from an undiagnosed sleep disorder? Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that can have many consequences including chronic daytime sleepiness and fatigue, cardiovascular problems, even stroke. It is important for everyone to know the signs and symptoms of apnea in order to proactively treat this serious problem and to prevent the progression of apnea and to improve the overall quality of you or your loved one’s life.

Imagine spending half of your night under water. Similar to the effects of not being able to breathe under water, apnea is defined as cessation of airflow for more than 10 seconds, which means that patients can go for periods of 10 seconds or more without sending the necessary oxygen they need to their brains. Commonly a side effect to snoring, these periods of cessation repeat themselves as much as 20 times per hour during sleep, increasing the likelihood of serious complications, however snoring is not necessarily an implication of sleep apnea.

There are two common types: Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), each with its own specific symptoms, implications and treatment. This is why it is crucial for your physician to perform the necessary tests to correctly diagnose your sleep disorder as one of the two specific types of apnea before developing a sleep treatment regimen.

Central Sleep Apnea is sleep disorder where there is a loss of breathing effort resulting in episodes of apnea, and is common in patients with heart failure, cerebrovascular disease, or in newborns. CSA occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles which initiate breathing, which essentially stops the patient from breathing. This interruption of breathing may be due to the immaturity of the respiratory centers of the brain, as in pediatric cases, or due to the presence of drugs, seizures, brain injury or neuromuscular disorders.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the repeated obstruction of breathing during sleep, caused by the collapse of the throat air passage and is common among approximately 17% of middle aged men and women, and also among children. OSA occurs when breathing is obstructed during sleep because of the collapse of the throat and breathing passage. Medical health, age and other factors may contribute to OSA including obesity, abnormality of the facial bones, smoking cigarettes or consuming alcohol. OSA has an even greater impact on co-existing illnesses such as heart failure and stroke, and should be taken seriously by both patient and physician.

In addition to CSA and OSA, a small percentage of infants and adults may suffer from “mixed apnea,” showing symptoms of both forms of the sleep disorder. Patients who snore, or are at risk for any form of sleep disorder should look at some of the most common Sleep Apnea Symptoms, or consult their physician or dentist about a treatment option.

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