Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing while you sleep. The problem is caused by obstructions in the airway. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea do not realize they have a problem or understand why treatment is necessary to prevent dangerous complications.
Obstructive sleep apnea causes you to wake up because you stop breathing in your sleep, and some people may wake up numerous times throughout the night. Since you are in a phase of sleep, you may not be awake enough to realize there is a problem. This constant cycle of breathing cessation and waking up means you may never enter restful sleep or may not stay in restful sleep long enough, which leads to daytime sleepiness. This concern is especially troubling for people who drive or operate heavy machinery since they are more likely to doze off during these activities and cause an accident.
Complications With Medications
When you do not realize there is a problem, this increases your risk of problems when taking certain medications. Some medications prescribed for pain or those that increase sleepiness may be contraindicated for people with obstructive sleep apnea. Since these medications can cause muscle relaxation or force you into a deeper sleep, there is the risk your airway will be obstructed more than normal or your brain is less able to send reminders to wake up and breathe. Many people who need surgery have a sleep study done before the procedure to determine if they have sleep apnea, because the condition needs to be improved before having an elective surgery, and extra monitoring will be necessary before an urgent procedure.
People with obstructive sleep apnea are at an increased risk for having a heart attack. The pattern of stopping breathing and not having restorative sleep places significant strain on the heart. This is one of the reasons, once the problem is identified, that using a CPAP or BIPAP machine is critical. It not only makes for a restful night's sleep, but it also reduces stress on the heart. Unfortunately, people who go undiagnosed or those who are diagnosed and do not routinely use their machines during sleep may have a sudden heart attack during the night.
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that often goes unnoticed, especially if the person affected sleeps alone. If you notice any unusual symptoms, such as feeling tired even with a full night's sleep, it is important to have a sleep study done to monitor your breathing.
To learn more about sleep studies and obstructive sleep apnea, contact a sleep clinic in your area.