Sleep apnea, an interruption of breathing while asleep, is a sneaky disorder. It is estimated that a full 90% of people who experience these episodes are unaware they are happening. During these episodes, choking or gasping is common, as the body struggles for air. An individual may experience hundreds these episodes each night, though they may be completely in the dark that they’re struggling for breath. Not surprisingly, it is often the bed partner who first notices their mate is struggling to breathe. If left untreated, this common disorder can be life-threatening.
The mechanics behind sleep apnea are easy to understand: when you stop breathing during sleep due to sleep apnea, carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, and essential oxygen stores are depleted. This imbalance stimulates the brain to restart the breathing process. The brain signals you to wake up so that the muscles of the tongue and throat can increase the size of the airway. Then, carbon dioxide can escape, and oxygen can enter the airway. These waking episodes are necessary to restart breathing (and to save your life), and you may not remember them, but they do disrupt your sleep and cause daytime exhaustion.
Sleep apnea is categorized into different types, but the warning signs and symptoms for both are similar:
- Frequent silences during sleep due to breaks in breathing (apnea) ·
- Choking or gasping during sleep to get air into the lungs
- Loud snoring
- Sudden awakenings to restart breathing or waking up in a sweat
- Daytime sleepiness and feeling un-refreshed by a night’s sleep, including falling asleep at inappropriate times
The most common way to diagnose sleep apnea is by analyzing a patient’s medical and family histories, a physical exam, and sleep study results. After these factors are considered, your doctor will decide if seeing a sleep specialist is right for you. If you are referred to a sleep center, a specialist will monitor you while you sleep, assessing your sleep patterns, brain waves, heart rate, rapid eye movements using monitoring devices attached to your body. Based on your results, a treatment program may be prescribed.
At Symbius, we can provide you with equipment to monitor both your wakeful and sleeping activities at home, and the knowledge technicians to get it up and running. Contact us today to learn more about our products and services.