The first sleep apnea symptom you may become aware of is snoring. Snoring is not always indicative of sleep apnea but if the snoring is loud or is more of a snort or choking sound, the culprit may be sleep apnea. Mainly caused by a blockage of the airway, sleep apnea can be successfully treated with a number of options available.
Your body needs to sleep to rejuvenate itself to keep functioning from day to day. If you have sleep apnea, your body cannot stay in REM sleep because of the decrease in oxygen signals your brain to wake you up. You eventually have what is referred to as a chronic sleep deficiency and this leads to another sleep apnea symptom of excessive daytime sleepiness.
OSA, or obstructive sleep apnea, affects approximately 4% of men and 2% of women in the US although the figures may be much worse than previously thought due to the increasing number of Americans becoming obese. Obesity is not a symptom, it is a cause. Of the 18 million people estimated to have sleep apnea, it is further estimated that only 10% of them are receiving treatment for their problem.
Men over the age of 40 are more likely to have sleep apnea than women of the same age. After the age of 50, the risk evens out between men and women. Obesity makes sleep apnea worse. About 70% of obese people in the US have obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is not discriminatory and affects men and women of all walks of life including people with heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, NFL Football players, Whites, African-Americans, Asians, and people from India.
So what happens when one is diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea? Well, first, the airway becomes obstructed by the tongue and soft palate. Next, trying to take a breath is not successful even though the muscle motion is made. Then, the oxygen level drops signaling the brain to wake you up so you will continue breathing. This is when you will gasp for air, snort, or snore very loudly.
Other types of obstruction that can affect breathing when sleeping are a deviated septum that has narrowed the air passages, or the filters in the nose called turbinates that obstruct breathing if they become swollen and the sidewalls of the throat collapse to close the airway. Sometimes the airway is obstructed while attempting to breathe when the tissues of the airway get sucked together by the negative pressure.
If you have a deviated septum you can try using the strips on your nose made for holding the nasal passages open. This may be enough to alleviate your symptoms and let you get the sleep you so desperately need and deserve each night. Before you try anything though you need to discuss all of your options with your doctor to see which is the best for you.
In order for you to take a breath several things have to happen all at once. The muscles of the chest expand and lower the diaphragm and create a negative pressure allowing you to take in a breath. The negative pressure created is what sucks the air into the lungs. Sometimes the airway is just narrower than normal and plain and simple anatomy is the obstructive sleep apnea symptom responsible for your sleep disorder.