In the U.S, 18 million people are suspected to have sleep apnea, yet only about 3.6 million people have been diagnosed and received proper treatment. Unfortunately, the majority of the patients are not even aware they have it.

In brief, what is sleep apnea and can it be prevented? Sleep apnea, basically, is a sleep disorder which causes a person’s breathing to stop completely or become shallow during sleep. In some instances, this pause in breathing can last ten seconds or more, making the person to produce chocking noises or snore loudly. During this state, both the body and the brain become deprived of oxygen, making the person to wake up suddenly gasping for breath.

This lack of air in the brain comes about when the walls of the throat fall partially or completely during sleep. As a result, this blocks off the upper airway, leading to sleep apnea.

Key symptoms of sleep apnea

Here are some key symptoms that are synonymous of sleep apnea:

  • Waking up with dry mouth
  • Feeling sleepy and tired during the day despite getting 7 or more hours of sleep during the night
  • Having trouble with concentration, and attention
  • Irritability
  • Experiencing morning headaches
  • Depression
  • Having decreased sex drive
  • Problems with swallowing, experiencing shortness of breath, voice changes, weakness or numbness in your body.
  • Additionally, your family members or partner may tell you that they noticed one or more of the following signs:
    • Chronic snoring which may be very loud
    • Recurring pauses in breathing followed suddenly by snorting and gasping for breath.

Can sleep apnea be prevented?

There are various sleep apnea treatment options like CPAP machines, surgery, and oral appliances. However, even lifestyle choices can be used to remedy the condition. For instance, not taking sedatives or sleeping pills before bed helps to prevent the walls of the throat from relaxing. Exercising frequently, avoiding smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating healthy are also helpful in preventing sleep apnea.

How dangerous is sleep apnea? What happens if it is left untreated?

Sleep apnea, if left untreated can result in a range of health problems, including stroke, heart failure, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, headaches, and worsening of ADHD. Understanding the causes and symptoms of sleep apnea is vital in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. See a medical specialist if any of the symptoms occur, and receive proper treatment to avert further health problems.