Many people are shocked to hear that sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder and is estimated to affect around 18 million Americans — but even more people are surprised to find out that such a prevalent disorder exists, even though they’ve never heard of it before! It really isn’t too weird for someone to find out that they’ve been suffering from sleep apnea without even knowing what it is, so with that in mind, here are a few important basics about sleep apnea that everyone should know:
- Sleep apnea is considered a sleep disorder because it never occurs when the person is awake. With sleep apnea, a person’s body will stop breathing for as long as 10 seconds and then suddenly begin to breathe again, causing the person to gasp for air and awake suddenly. A person with severe sleep apnea can experience dozens — even hundreds — of sleep apneas per night.
- The result of sleep apnea is that the person isn’t able to get a full night of restful sleep, since they are constantly waking up. Many times, it happens so quickly that the person isn’t even aware of waking up — they simply fall back asleep again, only to have another apnea soon after.
- The most common signs of sleep apnea are all related to sleep deprivation, since the body is unable to go through REM cycles during the night and actually have restful, healthy sleep. These symptoms often include extreme exhaustion, falling asleep during the day (and even while driving), confusion, anxiety, inability to concentrate or remember things, weight gain, high blood pressure, and a slew of other physical and mental effects.
- Most people need to visit a specialist or a sleep lab in order to be diagnosed with sleep apnea, but treating the disorder is pretty simple after that! CPAP machines and CPAP masks are widely available on the market today and are very effective for treating sleep apnea. A CPAP machine can include CPAP nasal pillows, which push air through small tubes into the person’s nasal passage, or through a CPAP mask, which covers the nose and/or mouth and sends a constant stream of air through the mask in order to keep the person’s breathing passages open.
The good news is that sleep apnea is very treatable with CPAP machines, and many people find instant relief when they begin using one!