Sleep apnea is a chronic disease as common as adult asthma; approximately 1 to 5% of people worldwide suffer from it (according to the World Health Organization), and many remain unknowingly and untreated, as it rarely diagnosed. It is characterized, mainly, by snoring and then a pause in breathing during sleep, causing many disorders such as cardiovascular diseases (hypertension, first).
Why should I worry?
The main characteristic of Sleep Apnea is the breathing pause of at least 10 seconds when sleeping. In severe cases, the person can remain up to 40 seconds without involuntarily breathing, which results in arrhythmia, choking, restlessness and sleep interruptions. During this time, the patient’s brain stops receiving oxygen. These episodes can occur between 1 and 100 per hour, and cause the person not to have a deep, restful sleep but to maintain a light sleep interrupted by episodes in which the breathing becomes superficial.
Also, Sleep Apnea causes cardiovascular disease, which makes it a dangerous combination. 1% of patients with sleep apnea, undiagnosed, die while sleeping. 5% of patients with sleep apnea, not diagnosed, get divorced.
During the day, patients with sleep apnea suffer from extreme drowsiness that they cannot control; in cases of people in the constant handling of cars or machinery, daytime sleepiness can be a threat.
How do I recognize it?
The symptoms of Sleep Apnea are:
- Intense snoring
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Drowning, while sleeping
- Constant interruptions of sleep can even be by visits to the bathroom (Nocturia)
- Restlessness during sleep
During the day
- Extreme drowsiness (uncontrollable)
- Irritability and character changes
- Morning headaches
- Decrease in concentration and memory, which usually affect work, social and family life
- Frequently there are cases of sexual impotence
- Male sex: Sleep Apnea occurs more frequently in men, and in some women mostly after Menopause.
- Obesity: people with a neck circumference greater than 40 centimeters or excessive levels of fat in the abdomen are at risk.
- Be sedentary: do not perform any activity or exercise.
- Have hypertension: high blood pressure.
- Excess tissue in the airway (airways): in the nose, mouth, throat, and trachea.
- To consume excessive alcohol or sedatives.
- Have metabolic or endocrine disorders.
- Family history: family history of Sleep Apnea.
- Have diabetes
Obstructive Sleep Apnea vs. Central Sleep Apnea
Central apnea occurs when breathing stops during sleep because the brain fails to send adequate signals to the body. It is the least frequent Apnea type, the most dangerous and arises as a consequence of neurological affections (such as Cardiovascular Accidents, encephalitis, Parkinson’s Disease, among others), or of abuses in sedative medicines and alcohol.
Obstructive sleep apnea is more frequent and occurs when the airways blocked during sleep by various risk factors. Its main characteristic is loud snoring, which follows a breathing pause. Its causes are very varied: obesity, physical obstruction due to excess tissue in the respiratory canal, sedentary lifestyle.
About the treatment
Once a patient is diagnosed, the treating physician establishes a therapy according to the severity of the case. This can consist of simple measures such as weight loss (usually the first action to take), sleep hygiene (improve sleeping posture, that is, avoid doing it in the back or dorsal position), treat hypothyroidism (if this is the case). Cause), avoid the consumption of alcohol and sedatives.
In more severe cases, the doctor may indicate the use of continuous, non-invasive positive pressure therapy equipment when sleeping. These devices are used all night and keep the patient’s airways open with the pressure of drafts, preventing episodes of Apnea. The air distributed to the patient through masks (nasal or nasal-oral). As a last resort, the attending physician may prescribe surgery.