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What Is Sleep Apnea

Jan 28, 2008
THE DEFINITION OF SLEEP APNEA

Sleep apnea is a disorder that prevents the body from getting a sufficient amount of oxygen during sleep. During times of sleep, the sleep apnea victim or patient literally stops breathing for small periods of time, creating an extremely dangerous situation. Over 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with sleep apnea and that figure includes women, men, and children though most of victims are older male adults. Sleep apnea is also known as obstructive sleep apnea and it's the most common form. Throat blockage, mostly from the tongue or palate, is what gives obstructive sleep apnea its name - but it's only one form. Two other forms are central sleep apnea and mixed sleep apnea.

CAUSES OF SLEEP APNEA

There are several causes, however tongue or palate blockage is the main culprit. Basically, anything that prevents the lungs from getting enough air to the brain is at fault, thus almost all breathing problems have been blamed. From smoking and asthma to being overweight to snoring, sleep apnea is now thought to play a role in developing diabetes, heart attacks, and even death. According to a recent study, 30% of sleep apnea victims dies within four to five years after being diagnosed with one of its most severe forms.

SLEEP APENEA TREATMENT

Most treatments for sleep apnea involve the CPAP machine (continuous positive airway pressure). This machine works to supply the body (lungs and brain) with enough oxygen while the patient is sleeping. Some machines use nasal masks that cover the mouth and nose to send air, while others use a tube-connected mouth or nose piece to deliver air. The idea with either method is to keep the airway open so that a patient gets sufficient air through regular breathing.

Since the CPAP machine is a medical device, it requires a prescription from a neurologist and an polysomnogram (sleep study) examination.

Depending on the severity of the sleep apnea, a CPAP machine may not be needed. Some people have found relieve through natural methods simply by losing weight, cutting out certain foods from a diet, reducing alcohol consumption, or even avoiding certain medications under a doctor's advice. Others have found help from the intake of specific vitamins and minerals.

Ingesting vitamins and minerals without doctor consent can be dangerous however since a recent report disclosed that taking too many supplements (or the wrong ones) can cause problems rather than relieve them. The best supplements to ask a doctor about are the ones that stimulate circulation, reduce cholesterol, regulate metabolism.

Herbal remedies should be avoided because they may interfere with medications that a patient may already take. Herbs are a form of medication themselves, and mixing them with prescribed medications without proper knowledge of their effects is extremely dangerous. Under no circumstance, should a patient take a sleeping aid as a way to thwart sleep apnea. Sleeping aids are designed to deepen sleep, while sleep apnea treatments are designed to increase airflow. Both treatments solve completely different problems.
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