The Dangers of Sleep Apnea

If you think you might have sleep apnea, Dr. Terry Baker in Idaho Falls is an expert in diagnosing and treating the condition. For now, though, let’s take a look at what sleep apnea is, why it can be dangerous, and how to treat it.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which you wake up in the night repeatedly as your airway gets blocked by the relaxed muscles at the back of your throat. When your muscles relax, your airway narrows and then closes, restricting your ability to breathe. Your brain senses this problem and wakes you up to open your airway, but this awakening is usually so short you don’t even realize it happened. You might gasp or choke or snort when it occurs, too. This cycle can happen anywhere from 5-30 times an hour during the night.

Factors that increase your risk for sleep apnea include being overweight, genetics (you may have inherited a narrow throat), being older, and smoking. The most common signs that you have sleep apnea include loud snoring, periods during which you stop breathing at night (that your partner notices), gasping for air while you sleep, having a dry mouth when you wake up, feeling exhausted when you wake up, and an abnormal amount of daytime sleepiness.

Why is sleep apnea dangerous?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious medical issue because of the complications it may cause, including:

Daytime exhaustion

Normal sleep is impossible because of all the interruptions, so you are not getting the rest you need. Your fatigue can make concentrating difficult and can leave you irritable and moody. Your chance of accidents at work or while driving increase just because of the risk that you might fall asleep.

High blood pressure and heart problems

The multiple sudden drops in your blood oxygen level through the night can increase your blood pressure and put a greater strain on your cardiovascular system. If you already have heart disease, sleep apnea can make it worse.

Diabetes

If you have sleep apnea, your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes increases.

Relationship issues

If you snore loudly and wake up often, you will disturb your partner sleeping next to you and keep them from getting good rest as well. They often will go sleep in another part of the house, depriving you of time together.

How can you treat sleep apnea?

Mild cases of sleep apnea may only require a few lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. Most people with sleep apnea require a therapy called CPAP - continuous positive airway pressure - in which a machine delivers air pressure through a face mask that you wear while you are sleeping.

It may take a while to adjust to using a CPAP machine (you may try several different masks, for instance), but once it is working properly, it can be life-changing. Waking up refreshed and rested instead of exhausted and feeling as if you have been hit by a truck each morning can be a delightful experience.

In severe cases of sleep apnea, surgery may be necessary to keep your airway clear.

If you think you are suffering from sleep apnea, set up a consultation with Dr. Terry Baker in Idaho Falls today to get on the fast track to a good night’s sleep!

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