Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in the U.S. today — in fact, it’s estimated that around 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea on a regular basis. Despite its prevalence, most people don’t really understand what sleep apnea is all about. Here’s a quick look at what it is, why it’s dangerous, and how it can be treated:
- Sleep apnea is a condition where a person stops breathing momentarily while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the air passage is blocked, can result in as many as 60 “apneas” or stoppages per hour while a person is sleeping. The real problem is that upon breathing again, the person typically gasps for air and wakes up slightly.
- Most people don’t realize that they have sleep apnea because they don’t fully wake up after each apnea. More commonly, the body’s sleep cycle is just disrupted and the person jolts out of a deep sleep, which is the level where the most rest and rejuvenation occurs.
- Overall, someone suffering from sleep apnea will end up developing a case of long-term sleep deprivation. The effects of sleep deprivation can be very dangerous and include a wide range of mental and physical problems. These problems are usually the signals that sleep apnea is occurring.
- Luckily, there are a few different ways to treat sleep apnea easily once it’s been diagnosed. CPAP machines are used to push a continuous air stream through the person’s air passages, ensuring that he or she does not stop breathing during the night. Nasal CPAP masks, sometimes called nasal pillows, are beneficial for people who are uncomfortable with a full CPAP mask. These “pillows” fit into the nostrils and provide a stream of air. CPAP machines are continuously being developed and revamped so that they’re easy to use and transport.
If you think you might have sleep apnea, it’s important to see a medical professional ASAP!
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