Sleep apnea is a condition whichaffects many people around the world. Basically, it is considered tobe a sleep disorder which manifests through irregular and abnormalbreathing pauses taking place during sleep.
This condition can affect the health ofthose who suffer from it and it is important to learn as much as youcan about sleep apnea and its characteristics, as well as thepossible methods you can opt for, when it comes to seeking treatment.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Each pause in breathing is called anapnea. This pause can last anywhere from a couple of seconds to evenminutes, appearing about 5 to 30 times in an hour. However, sleepapnea, apart from manifesting through pauses in breathing, can alsotake place through occurrences of low breathing, each of which isreferred to as hypopnea. Either way, sleep apnea is diagnosed andanalyzed through a process called sleep study.
In general, sleep apnea can take threemajor forms. First of all, it can be central, resuling in breathingirregularities due to a lack of respiratory effort. Secondly, thesleep apnea can be obstructive, signifying that there is a blockageof a physical type present in the airways, preventing properbreathing. Finally, there are complex or mixed sleep apneas,presenting combinations of both central and obstructive sleep apnea.
The most common occurrence of sleepapnea is the obstructive type, being present in about 84% of cases.However, in every type of this condition, people who suffer from itare usually not aware of this fact since they do not suffer from anyrespiratory problems while they are awake. Rather, most people go onsuffering from sleep apnea for years without being diagnosed ortreated, experiencing unexplained daytime fatigue or sleepiness,along with some minor sleep-related problems.
Sleep apneas are diagnosed through amedical evaluation of the symptoms that the affected person isshowing, combined with the results of the sleep study. Basically, thenumber of abnormal breathing patterns during one's sleep are recordedand applied to the diagnosis process. According to this form ofcollected information, the exact type of sleep apnea can be noted. Inmedicine, in order for a person to be diagnosed with a sleep apnea,he/she needs to have a minimum of 10 second intervals between his/herbreaths, experiencing either a neurological arousal noted through anincrease of EEG frequency or a desaturation of the oxygen levels inthe blood by more than 4%. Also, if both of these signs are present,sleep apnea can be diagnosed.
What is Sleep Study?
As the name itself may suggest, sleepstudy is a group of studies which observe the changes one's bodyundergoes during sleep. The main purpose of these studies, as it wasmentioned above, is diagnosing and assessing many types of sleepdisorders, including sleep apnea.
Apart from sleep apnea-related usage,sleep study can be used for diagnosing and examining conditions suchas narcolepsy or other problems which make it troublesome for aperson to stay awake, sleep walking, night tremors, bed-wetting andcountless other sleep or bedtime-related issues.
Additionally, sleep studies are used incases of insomnia, trying to find reasons behind this disorder, be itstress, depression, hunger, physical discomfort or something else.Another use of sleep study is determining whether shift work, jet lagor some other occurrences of this type are interfering with one'ssleeping patterns. Finally, sleep studies can also be directedtowards detecting twitches affecting the feet, the arms or the legs,all of these appearing during sleep.
Sleep studies can go in even moredetail, encompassing the analysis of a person's sleeping stages, bothREM and NREM, seeing whether these alternate properly during his/hersleep or lead to certain imbalance-related problems.
There are several tool of the trade,when it comes to sleep studies. Polysomnogram is one of these, beingused for recording brain activity, eye movement, levels of oxygen andcarbon-dioxide in the blood, determining the heart rhythm and rate,as well as the same features for breathing and tracking the airflowfrom and to the mouth and the nose. Furthermore, polysomnogram isused for the detection of snoring and muscle or body movements duringsleep.
In order to measure the time necessaryfor a person to fall asleep, along with detecting the stages ofsleep, multiple sleep latency test is used. Finally, maintenance ofwakefullness test, or MWT serves a purpose of determining whether youcan stay awake during the time of day when this is normally expectedof people.
These studies are commonly performed inlaboratories in clinics or other health facilities. However, ifnecessary, the devices used for sleep studies can be portable too.
All in all, sleep apnea can lead tomany health problems in the long run and the worst thing about it isthe unawareness of the sufferers, regarding the presence of thiscondition. Fortunately, sleep studies can diagnose this condition andcontribute to the development of this treatment.