Sleep apnea is a disorder that's experienced more often and by more people than one would expect; it causes a person to stop breathing periodically during sleep, normally for around 10 seconds or longer. These 'events' can happen as little as a couple of times during sleep, or more than a hundred times in more severe cases.
When a person stops breathing during the night they will wake up, because the brain will be forced to get their body to start breathing again.
Usually a person won't realize that they have woken up but will find that they are still tired the following day, despite going to bed early. This causes many health problems and can lead to depression.
See also: Best Sleep Aid for Insomnia
Learn More About Sleep Apnea and Hypopnea
It is found that 2% to 4% of the world's adult population is affected by sleep apnea. Many of the people who experience sleep apnea also develop cognitive dysfunction as well as neuro-behavioral dysfunction. Memory impairment, concentration problems and mood swings are also associated with sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Can be Experienced in 3 Forms:
- Central sleep apnea – Central sleep apnea, in general, is experienced less commonly than obstructive sleep apnea. It happens when the brain fails to signal the breathing muscles. Normally conditions that influence the brain stem can be pointed out as the cause of central sleep apnea.
- Obstructive sleep apnea – A complete or partial airway blockage while sleeping is the reason behind obstructive sleep apnea. A person's fatty tissues of the neck or the tongue will fall into the back part of the mouth because during sleep the throat muscles relax. This leads to blocked airflow.
- Mixed sleep apnea – This form of sleep apnea consists of a combining of central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.
See also: Best Tea for Sleep Apnea
Frequently Asked Questions
How Many Apneas per Hour is Normal?
A rate of 0 to 5 sleep apnea events per hour is considered normal. 5 to 14 sleep apnea events would be classified as mild sleep apnea and 14 to 29 events an hour is moderate sleep apnea. 30 or more sleep apnea events per hour is classified as severe sleep apnea.
Your doctor will make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms or refer you to a sleep disorder center for further care and treatment (read also how to talk to your doctor about your sleep).
What is Hypopnea?
Hypopnea is a partial closing of the airway. In the event of hypopnea, the airway closes and reduces breathing by anything between 30% and 89%. Hypopnea events also last for around 10 seconds.
What is Apnea Hypopnea Index?
The Apnea-Hypopnea Index is a way to classify a person's sleep apnea severity. It is measured by calculating the number of sleep apnea events and hypopnea events that a person experiences during their sleep and then dividing that amount by the hours of sleep the person had. The higher the Apnea-Hypopnea Index result, the more severe their sleep apnea is.
What is Considered Severe Sleep Apnea?
When a person experiences 30 or more sleep apnea events per hour, their sleep apnea is considered severe. Severe sleep apnea is a very serious condition and poses great risks to the sufferer's health. Heart disease and diabetes can be connected to severe sleep apnea. More importantly, in recent studies it was found that people who experience severe sleep apnea could be more at risk for serious and fatal conditions like cancer.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
The best treatment for sleep apnea would be a drastic lifestyle change. Regular exercise and quitting smoking would be the first recommended changes. Avoiding alcohol 4 to 6 hours before going to bed should also be considered.
Some simpler changes like getting an ideal sleep apnea pillow, sleeping on the side and ensuring proper ventilation in the bedroom are suggested. If a person has mild or severe sleep apnea a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine would be considered. It's a mask that's attached to a machine with a hose and placed over the nose. The best CPAP machine will blow air into the nose and prevent the wearer from waking up during the night. The machine will record the person's AHI and help them monitor their condition.
Sleep apnea is a dangerous and serious condition. It shouldn't be ignored and anyone who experiences sleep apnea during the night should consult a doctor. Leaving this condition untreated not only leaves the sufferer very tired during the day (a hazard in its own) but could lead to fatal health problems.