As we sleep, it is common to hear subtle noises from our bed partners, such as snoring or deep breathing. However, loud and excessive snoring can indicate a much more serious condition – sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous sleep disorder where breathing is recurrently interrupted during sleep. It is estimated to affect approximately 20 million Americans, with many cases of undiagnosed and untreated sufferers.
The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), which occurs when the muscles in the throat relax and block the airway, causing the individual to momentarily wake up and gasp for air. These incidents of sleep deprivation can happen up to hundreds of times throughout the night.
Untreated sleep apnea can lead to a multitude of health issues. The most apparent danger is oxygen deprivation, which can cause high blood pressure, heart failure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep apnea is also known to affect concentration, memory, and reaction times, leading to an increased risk of accidents or injuries.
The risks posed by sleep deprivation and sleep apnea extend further to the workplace. Dr. Nathaniel Watson, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, emphasizes the importance of getting treated: “If you have sleep apnea, you’re at a higher risk of not only an automobile crash but also getting injured on the job, including potentially fatal injuries.”
One of the most concerning symptoms of sleep apnea is the constant snoring. It is a sign that the airway is obstructed and can only be opened through treatment. Additionally, bed partners can also be affected by the loud snoring and disrupted sleep cycles, leading to sleep deprivation, fatigue, and irritability.
The good news is that sleep apnea is a treatable condition. People with OSA may be prescribed Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves wearing a mask over the nose while sleeping. The mask is connected to a machine that delivers a steady flow of air pressure, keeping the airway open.
If you or someone you know experiences excessive snoring or any other symptoms of sleep apnea, it is essential to seek medical attention. It may be time for a sleep study, which can diagnose the condition and lead to effective treatment options.
Sleep apnea may seem like a harmless sleep disorder, but its underlying severity poses a significant threat to our health, safety, and overall well-being. Don’t let untreated sleep apnea be the cause of sleepless nights and life-threatening risks.