Obstructive sleep apnea affects around 20 million Americans. This means that it’s as common as adult diabetes. But unlike diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Millions of Americans spend their nights snoring and their days fatigued, and have no idea that they are suffering from a serious health problem. This disorder is tough to diagnose because the symptoms often aren’t recognized. Its symptoms resemble those of other diseases and health problems. Furthermore, it can’t be diagnosed during a doctor’s visit. In order to get a perfect diagnosis, the sufferer must spend the night in a lab. William C. Dement, the father of sleep medicine, is quoted as saying “Sleep disordered breathing in its various manifestations is arguably the number one health problem in the U.S., and probably in the world.”
The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). This is caused by a collapse of tissue at the back of the throat that helps with breathing. It blocks the airway and keeps the sleeper from breathing properly. The sleeper may stop breathing for up to ten seconds, after which they’ll suck in a sharp breath. This keeps the brain from getting the oxygen it needs. Obesity, an elongated soft palate or enlarged tonsils can also cause OSA. A less common type is central sleep apnea. This is when the brain fails to tell the body to breath during sleep. Unlike OSA, snoring is not a factor in this type. In addition to OSA and CSA, there is also a mixed version, which is a combination of the two. By far, the most common of the three is OSA. Evidence suggests that all forms of sleep apnea might be hereditary. Obese men over 40 are at the highest risk for developing the disease, but anyone can suffer from the disorder, even children.
Obstructive sleep apnea symptoms can be hard to detect because they may appear minor or may mimic other diseases. It’s usually impossible for the sufferer themselves to notice the symptoms because they’re sleeping. Usually, these symptoms are noticed by family members. Symptoms include:
People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea find that no matter how many hours they get, they never feel rested. This feeling of fatigue often comes with muscle pain and headaches. Without the proper oxygen it needs, your body is unable to carry out its important functions while you are sleeping. Lack of proper sleeping also affects your immune system, making you more susceptible to viruses. Being overly sleepy can also put you at risk for car accidents and accidents at work. This condition interferes with REM sleep. This is the deep state that helps to regulate your brain’s functioning. Lack of REM leads to anxiety and lack of concentration. This inability to focus and think clearly acts like a symptom of ADD or ADHD. It also leads to mood swings, emotional problems and lowered job performance. Your body also has important hormonal functions that it carries out while you’re asleep. This disease causes many sufferers to put on weight and have trouble taking it off. When your hormones cannot be secreted properly, it slows down your metabolism. And finally, this disease can be fatal. Over the long term, lack of good rest increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, fibromyalgia and hypertension. Don’t you want to get that night’s rest you’re dreaming of? If you show any of the above symptoms and feel tired and fatigued during the daytime, talk to your doctor about staying overnight in a lab. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help get you the rest you need, and it can even save your life.