Prevalence rates of sleep apnea in healthy individuals of the right weight is 3 percent, while it is 20 percent among individuals classified as obese. Surprisingly, while sleep apnea is known to affect more men than women, the rates of occurrence in women rise post menopause. Sleep apnea when left undiagnosed can result in increased risk to cardiovascular health and metabolic health conditions including diabetes. In a large number of individuals this remains undiagnosed and could have an impact on metabolic health.

Sleep apnea refers to the condition during sleep, when the upper airway muscles end up relaxing, thereby preventing the individual from receiving the desired amount of air when breathing. During this occurrence, there is a possibility of a pause in breathing, for as long as 10 seconds, sometimes in excess of 10 seconds. After this pause in breathing, the body’s reflex system takes over, and breathing resumes. Here is a detailed look at the condition, apart from side effects of sleep apnea.

Classification of obstructive sleep apnea

While sleep apnea as a term applies to the condition, it is actual severity determines the classification. The condition is classified into three different categories – severe, moderate and mild.  The system used to measure the condition is known as AHI (apnea-hypnopea index), which measures the number of pauses per hour experienced by the individual during sleep. This is then used to determine the severity of the condition. Severe obstructive sleep apnea refers to the condition wherein the AHI is determined to be greater than thirty episodes per hour. When the AHI is assessed as between above fifteen and below thirty episodes per hour, it is classified as moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Finally, mild obstructive sleep apnea refers to the condition wherein the AHI is above five and below fifteen episodes per hour. The need for treatment for the condition depends entirely on the severity, and the associated side effects of sleep apnea. Various factors such as sleepiness, heart disease, or other health conditions.

Symptoms that indicate sleep apnea

Before we dwell on the side effects of sleep apnea it is necessary to learn about the symptoms that indicate the condition. Obstructive sleep apnea refers to the condition when there is an obstruction to the flow of air through the nose or mouth during sleep. Central sleep apnea refers to the condition when there is failure in the signals from the brain that control the muscles involved in breathing. While most individuals tend to link snoring with sleep apnea, it is not entirely true. Snoring is a condition that may or may not indicate sleep apnea, and patients with sleep apnea may or may not have snoring. Therefore, snoring could be an indication, when it is observed in conjunction with other symptoms.

Other possible side effects of sleep apnea include fatigue that is not attributed to other conditions or physical exertion. The individual may tend to exhibit swings in mood, with somewhat erratic behavior inconsistent with earlier behavior. This is primarily as a result of the lack of inadequate sleep. The individual may not have enjoyed deep slumber that is required for rest to the body and mind. Consequently, the lack of adequate rest may trigger such erratic behavior.  Individuals with the condition are most likely to be less productive at the workplace, may be inattentive in academics, or may not be alert while driving a vehicle.

The symptoms that indicate sleep apnea in include dry mouth, that is experienced on waking up in the morning. As a result of the condition, individuals automatically sleep with mouths open, resulting in dry mouth, as the saliva dries up. In certain instances, individuals are known to wake up with a throbbing headache, which is in turn attributed to the low levels of oxygen while asleep. This could also be possible due to the high levels of carbon dioxide as a result of the breathing pattern.

The link between sleep apnea and health complications

Sleep apnea is famously linked with cardiovascular health and various metabolic health complications. For instance, heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes are all commonly associated with sleep apnea. Side effects of sleep apnea are also linked to reduction in normal lifespan as a result of the metabolic health conditions. There is a common thread that serves as the link between sleep apnea and other health complications. As mentioned earlier, individuals who are classified as obese are at greater risk of having sleep apnea. Obesity, is in turn, linked to elevated risk of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. In addition to this common ground, there is a direct link between sleep apnea and diabetes. Individuals with the condition are likely to see a spike in blood sugar levels.

Methods to treat and manage the condition

The condition is diagnosed with a sleep apnea test, that involves the use of equipment to monitor the individual’s breathing while asleep. It assesses the oxygen levels during various phases of sleep. Depending on the condition, the individual may also have to spend a night at a laboratory for monitoring through specialized equipment that are not portable.

Sleep apnea is treated/managed through a combination of changes in lifestyle and medication.  Obese individuals are at higher risk – when fat accumulates in the neck, in the upper belly and the tongue, the increased weight brings about a reduction in the diameter of the throat, and also exerts a pushing force against the lung. All of this contributes to the collapse of the airway when the individual is asleep. This makes it necessary for obese individuals to work on weight management and reduce the risk of airway collapse.

As highlighted earlier, women tend to fall in high-risk category post menopause. Women generally put on weight around the hips and the lower part of the body, before menopause. However, this this tends to change post menopause, with the weight increase occurring in parts of the body similar to that of men. For instance, post menopause, women put on weight around the stomach, and this can contribute to sleep apnea.

The first step towards managing the condition is to control weight effectively. This is of extreme importance, as the risk of damage to metabolic health is gradual and without warning. Most individuals end up knowing about the condition, after considerable damage has occurred. Treatment includes the primary option of CPAP, a medical device that is used to ensure adequate air pressure in the throat to keep it open while sleeping. Acronym for continuous positive airway pressure machine, it humidifies air via the nose, and this in tune ensures that the right amount of air pressure is maintained to keep the throat open. As a result of this action, the pauses in breathing while asleep are effectively prevented.

Considered as the first line of treatment, CPAP helps prevent the typical metabolism reactions associated with side effects of sleep apnea. For instance, individuals with the condition who have not received any kind of intervention are likely to end up with increased blood sugar levels, increase in blood pressure and a spike in stress hormones. The use of CPAP as per the advice of specialists has been known offer effective outcomes. For instance, individuals who have worn the device while sleeping, are known to have controlled blood pressure levels effectively, while enjoying nourishing sleep. This results in the individual performing duties and actions during the day with more energy, in an alert state of mind and without any mood swings. This also impacts the manner in which metabolic health is affected, with individuals having lowered risk of heart attack and blood glucose levels.

Common symptoms that help identify the condition

The following compilation of conditions or symptoms help in identifying the condition. These side effects of sleep apnea are relatively common in occurrence among patients with sleep apnea, and can be used to look at additional methods of identifying the condition. For instance, loud snoring could be a possible indication of sleep apnea. However, it is important to note that snoring may or may not linked to sleep apnea, and it is to be assessed in addition to other symptoms.

The best possible method of assessing, is the sudden pauses in breathing while asleep. This can be better monitored or reported by any family member, other than the patient. Self-awareness of this is often limited and only a different person would be in a position to notice this symptom. Another symptom that is noticeable by the individual as well as other family members is gasping for air during various stages of sleep. Dry mouth, as highlighted earlier is another possible indication of sleep apnea. Headaches, that are not attributed to any condition, or any difficulty in remaining asleep are other possible indications. Patients with sleep apnea may find it difficult to be alert during the daytime, with a tendency to fall asleep or appear sapped of all energy. Lack of attentiveness is another outcome of the condition and may impact routine tasks and abilities and responsibilities. This could also manifest as some kind of irritation among individuals.

High risk categories

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