Sleep Apnea Might be the Cause of Your Daytime Exhaustion
Most of us are tired. We could credit this exhaustion to anything from a bad mattress to working too late into the night.
For some people, though, daytime sleepiness is caused by obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder that if left untreated can take its toll on the body and mind.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), OSA has been linked to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, work-related accidents, and depression. It affects more than 12 million Americans.
OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea and is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses. Sleep apnea causes a pause in the breathing process while a person is sleeping. Pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur between five and 100 times per hour.
A less common form of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea, which is caused when your brain doesn't send the correct signals to your breathing muscles.
People with sleep apnea typically don't remember not being able to breathe, but do partially wake up when it happens. If you're partially waking up 100 times an hour, it make sense that you may feel tired and irritable the next day.
Men are more susceptible to sleep apnea than women and when it is found in children, they're typically between ages three and six years old.
Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Being overweight, as extra fat tissue around the neck makes it harder to keep the airway open
- Being over age 40
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Having a nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies or sinus problem.
Sleep studies are required to determine if someone suffers from sleep apnea.
In some cases, sleep apnea can be improved by losing weight or discontinuing the use of alcohol or medication that can make a person sleepy. The most common treatment, however, is a CPAP machine, which uses mild air pressure to keep airways open. It is delivered through a mask that fits over your nose and mouth or just over your nose.
About two years ago, the FDA approved an implantable device for certain types of sleep apnea patients. The implant uses electrical impulses to stimulate the patient's tongue muscles to keep airways open. The device is turned on at night and controlled with a remote control.
Those who suffer from sleep apnea may find some help by using an oral device that fits like a mouth guard or orthodontic retainer that helps place the jaw in a forward position.