Imagine this is you. You’ve lived your life, and everything seems fine. Occasionally you are tired during the day, but you chalk it up to not getting enough sleep. All of this changes one day when you are at your partner’s house taking a nap. They wake you up alarmed, worried about your breathing. If this is you, then you may have sleep apnea.
So what is it? Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that affects people as they sleep. As a result, you may have it, and not even know. There is no way to diagnose it, so usually the first time you become aware is when a bed partner of family member overhears. Blood tests do not help predict it either. Sleep apnea is when your breathing at night is obstructed, causing you to take shallow breaths, then sudden inhales. To someone sleeping with you, it may be very difficult for them to stay asleep. So what can you do to help yourself or a partner?
Causes: Understanding Sleep apnea
Sleep apnea moves you from a deep sleep to a light sleep, interrupting your body’s natural recovery cycle. Sleep apnea comes in two common forms, obstructive and central. Obstructive when your breathing is blocked while sleeping. This most commonly occurs if your airway collapses, your tonsils are enlarged, or you are overweight. As a result, your body forces air out, partially waking you up. Central occurs less frequently, and is a result of a miscommunication between the part of your brain controlling sleeping and your lungs. As a result, it can happen to anyone.
What else can lead to sleep apnea?
In addition to the potential causes listed above, sleep apnea can be inherited. In addition, sleep apnea more frequently occurs in males, with a particular emphasis on Black and Latinos. Finally, sleep apnea increases as you age, peaking at around year 65.
Symptoms: Identifying if someone you know has sleep apnea.
Figuring out for sure if someone you know or love suffers from sleep apnea will require listening to their breathing as they sleep. Sleep apnea can cause people to be tired, so watch out for irritable behavior, depression, and emotional swings. While sleeping, keep track of their in breaths and out breaths. Short pauses, sudden inhalations, and loud snoring are common signs.
Treatment: What can I do about it?
One of the easiest things to do is to live healthier. Cut out caffeine before bed, reduce alcohol consumption, reduce weight, sleep regularly, and cut down on pills that aid in sleeping.