Apnea is cessation of breathing. It is a medical term that encompasses a large number of issues, that start from the innocent looking, and sufficiently annoying snoring. Snoring is a fairly common issue, omnipresent in all segments of population. We have to realize that snoring, while being common, is not a benign issue. It stems from the anatomical aberrations originating in your throat and laryngeal muscles, and culminate in problems such as Sleep Apnea, which actually add a lot to morbidity and mortality, not to mention the compromise in quality of life.
You should know that snoring occurs due to structural abnormalities leading to vibrations of your throat muscles. This is an important thing that can exacerbate with time, resulting in complete closure of airways (Apnea) when we are asleep, as our muscle tone is significantly reduced during sleep. In such cases, oxygen saturation reduces and carbon dioxide pents up in body, resulting in us waking up to breathe. This occurs in cycles, occurring about 5 to 6 times a night.
This constant cycle of decreased oxygenation causes a lot of trouble to the body. It causes the following effects:
- The lungs are adversely affected. The pulmonary vasculature undergoes a lot of remodeling, ultimately causing Pulmonary Hypertension.
- The Pulmonary Hypertension, in turn, causes Right Heart Failure, producing a condition called Cor Pulmonale. This leads to a lot of symptoms, such as edema in the feet, and liver enlargement and engorgement of the veins of the neck. Ultimately, the heart gives way, and is unable to pump blood to the body. Heart Failure leads to death in most cases of uncontrolled Sleep Apnea.
- The constant stress upon the body causes Hypertension, which is another blow to the heart. It accelerates the process of Heart Failure, leading to a worse prognosis.
- In most cases, frank obesity is associated with Sleep Apnea. This is another severe blow to the body. While obesity is a risk factor for Sleep Apnea, but weight reduction becomes difficult once the patient develops Heart Failure. In such cases, the vicious cycle perpetuates itself.
Sleep Apnea is an issue that has to be raised, as it associates itself with a variety of other issues, most notably Hypertension and Heart Failure.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
You have to suspect that you might be suffering from sleep apnea if you notice the following things in your life:
- Your partner has been constantly cribbing about your snoring, which has increased in intensity.
- If you feel that you are getting up from sleep several times during night. This interrupted and fragmented sleep is actually leaving you sleep deprived and you feel sleepy throughout the day. There is nothing called ‘refreshment’ after a night’s sleep in your life. You feel significant tiredness after sleeping, and it is bothering your performance at work.
- You feel sleepy even at times when your attention should be extremely focused, for example at an important meeting or while driving. These are dangerous places to fall asleep.
- You are feeling cranky and annoyed at all times, most probably a result of inadequate sleep.
The Solution To The Problem
Someone rightly said that ‘A stitch in time saves nine’. If you are aware about this condition and are able to pick this up in early stages, all your problems can vanish with little effort.
One must keep their weight in control, along with being wary of one’s snoring habits. A little snoring is a physiological phenomenon, but once your bed partner brings it up as a significant nuisance, every care should be taken to tackle it, so that it does not reach severe proportions.