October 01, 2017

Sleep apnea

A common cause of sleepiness and fatigue

Sleep apnea

You try to get a full night's sleep, but you still feel exhausted in the morning. By afternoon, you're dragging. The tiredness makes you irritable and scatterbrained. Your spouse isn't getting enough sleep either due to your snoring and worries when you stop breathing periodically throughout the night. But you don't remember any of it.

You may be experiencing sleep apnea. Left untreated, this nighttime breathing disorder not only causes daytime sleepiness and fatigue, but also can lead to cardiovascular problems.

However, once the condition is identified, treatment can be very effective, with therapies ranging from simple lifestyle changes to specialized breathing devices, dental appliances, surgery or even an implantable device.

No rest for the weary

If you have sleep apnea, you likely feel sleepy or fatigued during the day, especially after lunch, while driving or during periods of inactivity. You may wake up with a headache and feel mentally dull, with a sense that your sleep wasn't refreshing. Other signs and symptoms include high blood pressure, irritability, insomnia, decreased sex drive, irregular heartbeats and dry mouth.

During sleep, muscles in the back of your throat (pharynx) relax. These muscles normally keep your airway open by providing support to structures in your mouth and throat, such as the small, teardrop-shaped tissue at the back of your throat (uvula), the soft palate, your tonsils and your tongue.

With obstructive sleep apnea, these structures collapse inward and obstruct airflow. Obstruction of airflow lowers the level of oxygen in your blood. After 10 to 30 seconds of insufficient exchange of air, your brain rouses you to a lighter level of sleep or brief wakefulness....