Everyone needs adequate rest if they are going to perform at their highest potential, and nothing is more frustrating than being unable to fall into a deep and restful slumber. While there are multiple reasons that people may have this experience, sleep apnea is among the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical dysfunction that causes repeated interruptions in the breathing pattern of someone who suffers from this chronic condition. In fact, the latest statistics shows that sleep apnea is more prominent than you might think:
“Two to four percent of all Americans have an undiagnosed case of sleep apnea. This accounts for approximately 1 in 50 individuals being undiagnosed.” [ http://www.sleepdisordersguide.com/sleepapnea/sleep-apnea-statistics.html ]
Although many individuals who are affected by OSA also snore, some have no obvious indications of the condition other than never feeling completely rested. It is also a fact that snoring can be caused by factors other than sleep apnea. A higher percentage of individuals suffering from OSA are men, but nearly one in ten women also experience the interrupted sleep pattern common to the condition. Whether male or female, most of the people with sleep apnea are not aware of the condition nor of the potential risk if it is not treated.
Some of the common causes of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Obesity – Individuals who are overweight may have obstructed airways that are more problematic when they lie down to sleep.
- Gender and age – Middle aged males are more likely to develop the condition than females or younger males.
- Heredity – Experts estimate that genetics play a role in up to 40 percent of obstructive sleep apnea cases.
While sleep disturbance is difficult to deal with due to fatigue and a general lack of energy, when the condition is left untreated it can lead to more serious health conditions. Heart failure, stroke, hypertension, nocturnal angina, cancer and gastroesophageal reflux disease may all have a connection to OSA. Many of these conditions can be aggravated by the ongoing stress that results from insufficient sleep.
In addition to these medical conditions, OSA sufferers are much more likely to be involved in a fatal car crash due to their impaired driving ability. According to statistics provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, automobile crashes that resulted in a fatality were caused by a driver who was fatigued, drowsy, sleepy or even asleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea is most often treated through the use of oral appliances, allergy medications or surgical treatment. OSA patients are typically advised to avoid alcohol several hours before retiring and to sleep on their side rather than their back or stomach. They will also be advised to lose weight if obesity is a contributing factor of their sleep apnea.