Although it can be annoying for your bed partner or roommate, snoring once in a while isn’t typically something that you should be concerned about. In fact, almost everyone snores from time to time.
However, if you’re a long-term snorer and your snoring is accompanied by daytime sleepiness or fatigue, you may have a common but serious disorder affecting breathing called sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterised by abnormal breathing during sleep. It is a condition in which the breathing of a person repeatedly stops and starts. These breathing interruptions can last up to 20 seconds and can occur from 5 to over 100 times per hour.
Sleep apnea is potentially serious and can lead to several health problems. If you think you might have this condition, it’s best to book an appointment to see a virtual doctor as soon as possible. Below are the basic things you should know about sleep apnea.
Causes and risk factors
There are two primary types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the muscles in the back of your throat relax, causing your airway to narrow and making it harder for you to breathe.
On the other hand, central sleep apnea takes place when your brain fails to transmit proper signals to your breathing muscles. As a result, your breathing stops for a short period, and you might wake up from shortness of breath. Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea have varying risk factors.
For obstructive sleep apnea, the factors that may increase your risk of developing the condition include:
- Gender – men are considered more prone to have obstructive sleep apnea than women.
- Age – obstructive sleep apnea occurs more often in older adults.
- Obesity – fat deposits around your upper airways can obstruct your breathing.
- Alcohol or sedative use – these substances can worsen sleep apnea since they relax your throat muscles.
- Smoking – smoking can increase inflammation and fluid retention in your upper airways.
- Nasal congestion – you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea if you have difficulty breathing through your nose.
- Family history – if you have a family member with sleep apnea.
On the other hand, you may be at greater risk of having central sleep apnea if you have the following risk factors:
- Gender – men also have a higher risk of central sleep apnea compared to women.
- Age – central sleep apnea is more common among middle-aged and older people.
- Use of narcotic pain medications – this type of medication can increase your risk of central sleep apnea, especially ones like methadone.
- Heart disorders – if you have congestive heart failure, you have a greater chance of having central sleep apnea.
- Stroke – if you have had a stroke, you may develop treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
Signs and symptoms
Obstructive and central sleep apnea have overlapping signs and symptoms, which sometimes makes it difficult to identify which type of sleep apnea you have. The most common signs and symptoms of the two main types of sleep apnea are the following:
- Loud snoring
- Pauses or interruptions in your breathing during sleep
- Choking or gasping for air during sleep
- Dry mouth upon awakening
- Headache in the morning
- Dizziness when waking up
- Difficulty sleeping or insomnia
- Excessive daytime sleeping or hypersomnia
- Irritability or mood swings
Sleep apnea is a serious medical health condition that can result in certain complications if undiagnosed or left untreated. Because of this, it’s important that you undergo an online medical consultation in Singapore about your condition before it becomes late. Here are some of the health issues you might face if you have sleep apnea:
- High blood pressure – frequently waking up during the night can cause stress on your body and make your hormone system go into overdrive. When this happens, your blood pressure levels will rise.
- Heart disease – sleep apnea disrupts the way your body takes in oxygen, thus making it difficult for your brain to control the flow of blood in your arteries and the brain itself. This can then lead to heart attacks.
- Type 2 diabetes – not getting adequate shut-eye during the night can keep your body from properly using insulin, which can lead to diabetes.
- Liver problems – you are more likely to have abnormal results on liver function tests or your liver are more likely to show signs of scarring if you have sleep apnea.
- Metabolic syndrome – this group of health conditions, which includes abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and an increased waist circumference, is often associated with sleep apnea.
- Memory loss – abnormal breathing patterns during sleep like heavy snoring or sleep apnea are linked to cognitive decline at an earlier age than normal.
- Depression – sleep apnea affects the quality of sleep that you get. If you always have poor sleep, you are more likely to be depressed.
Even though sleep apnea is a common sleeping disorder that affects many people, it is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention, especially when multiple symptoms or complications have started kicking in.
Diagnosing and treating your sleep apnea early is the best way to prevent any serious health problems in the long haul. Moreover, it can also help alleviate stress caused by a lack of sleep.
If you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, go ahead and immediately consult a doctor online in Singapore via the MyCLNQ app. As one of the leading telehealth apps for telemedicine in Singapore, MyCLNQ addresses all your medical needs in one place! You no longer have to experience the hassle of travelling to a clinic, as you can now receive medical assistance right at the comfort of your home with just a few simple clicks.