Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea - when snoring can be so harmful it can kill you

You or a loved one could be suffering from Sleep Apnea if you are experiencing one or more of the following symptoms:

Waking up, gasping, snorting or choking when sleeping Very loud and heavy snoring Long pauses in breathing Excessive daytime drowsiness and falling asleep at inappropriate times Waking up with a headache

Although Sleep Apnea is treatable, if left untreated Sleep Apnea can actually be extremely dangerous! It is therefore of vital importance that you consult your doctor as soon as possible!

What is Sleep Apnea?

The Greek word “apnea”means “without breath”, therefore Sleep Apnea typically occurs when the sufferer stops breathing for a moment when they are asleep. These interruptions can occur up to hundreds of times a night and can last anything from 10 – 20 seconds to a minute - or even longer - each time. The brain forces the sufferer to start breathing again – which is what happens when they are heard chocking or gasping. The sufferer is usually unaware of these Apnea attacks.

The continuous interruptions prevent the sufferer from reaching a deep sleep and therefore causes chronic sleep deprivation – which can cause a ‘snowball’ effect and ultimately increase risks of weight gain, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and even heart disease.

Types of Sleep Apnea:

There are three types of Sleep Apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This Apnea is the most common and occurs when the soft tissue in the throat relaxes and closes causing a blocked airway. OSA can be suspected in patients who are overweight, snore loudly, and have chronic daytime sleepiness. Heavy snoring will usually start almost immediately once the patient has fallen asleep. A long silence will then follow to signal that the patient is no longer breathing and then the silence will finally be broken with a loud snort or gasp when the patient attempts to breathe again.

Central Sleep Apnea 

This Apnea is less common as it involves the Central Nervous System whereby patients have a certain medical problem. CSA seldom includes snoring and occurs when the brain fails to communicate with the muscles that control breathing.

Mixed Sleep Apnea 

This Apnea is a combination of the two Apnea above. Patients are at risk of developing this type of Apnea when OSA becomes so serious that the patient starts to experience episodes of Central Sleep Apnea as well.

With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with Sleep Apnea in order for them to resume breathing. As a result, sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality. Sleep Apnea is very common but it is a serious disorder that can have significant consequences.

If left untreated, Sleep Apnea can cause:

  • high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease
  • memory problems
  • weight gain
  • impotency
  • an erratic short-term memory
  • mood swings and headaches (due to the brain being deprived of oxygen during the night).
  • It can also affect both one’s efficiency and productivity at work, and can impair one’s ability to drive or handle potentially dangerous equipment.

Snoring versus Sleep Apnea - What’s the difference?
The biggest difference is how the patient feels the following day. This is due to the fact that snoring sufferers do not usually wake up while snoring in their sleep, whereas Sleep Apnea sufferers do wake up. Sleep Apnea therefore affects the quality of the sufferer’s sleep more than snoring does, therefore a Sleep Apnea sufferer is more likely to suffer with extreme daytime drowsiness and fatigue. 

Against everyday belief - people of all ages, genders and race can suffer with Sleep Apnea. There are, however, specific factors that can indicate whether you are at a higher risk of suffering with Sleep Apnea. These include:

  • Being male
  • Being overweight
  • Being a smoker
  • Being over the age of 65
  • Suffering from a neurological disease, or spinal or brainstem injury (for Central Sleep Apnea)
  • Having someone in the family who suffers with Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea Treatments:
As mentioned above, Sleep Apnea can be diagnosed, treated and managed. Ensure that you visit your doctor in order to determine the severity of your Apnea.

Mild to moderate Sleep Apnea

Treatments are similar to the treatments used to help stop snoring. These treatments include using an anti-snoring mouthpiece (like SnoreMeds anti-snoring mouthpiece), changing your sleeping position, losing weight, quitting smoking, avoiding certain substances and foods, keeping your nasal passages open or propping your head up with an extra pillow.

Moderate to severe Sleep Apnea

Treatments are more extreme and usually involve either undergoing surgery or using the Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) machine. This machine acts like a mask that ensures there is a continuous flow of air that ensures that the sufferer’s airway remains open throughout the night.

Sleep Apnea Questionnaire:
The Ruhrland-Hospital in Essen-Heidhausen (Germany), Department of Sleep Medicine, compiled the following questionnaire for the diagnosis of Sleep Apnea. Complete all sections fully.
 By adding up your score, you can determine whether it is likely that you suffer from Sleep Apnea and whether therefore you should consult your doctor.

Score your answer to each question as follows:
0 = Never, 1 = Rarely, 2 = Often, 3 = Frequently Question

Never Rarely Often Frequently

1. Do you feel sleepy during the day?

2. Do you doze off during the day spontaneously?

3. Do you find it hard to concentrate for long periods of time?

4. Do you feel less efficient than you used to feel?

5. Do you snore loudly or do others say you do?

6. Has your partner witnessed you stopping breathing during your sleep?

7. Do you wake up in the morning with a headache?

8. Do you wake up tired and dizzy in the morning?

9. Do you fall asleep when watching TV, reading, working at the office, driving or talking to others?

10. Do you have difficulty falling asleep at night?

11. Do you wake up during the night?

12.Do you wake up earlier than you used to or is it taking you longer to get back to sleep than it used to take you?

13. Do you fidget in your sleep and/or is your bed rumpled in the morning?

*The publication of this questionnaire was gratefully authorised by the Federal Sleep Apnoea Association of Germany.

The likelihood with which Sleep Apnea may be present depends upon the total score as follows:

0 – 14: Unlikely, everything appears to be O.K.

15 – 25: Quite probable

> 25: Very probable