Don’t ignore the snore

Learn how this highly prevalent and under diagnosed condition can impact the restorativeness of sleep, and how it can also be harmful to overall health.

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What is Sleep apnea

During sleep, it is possible to experience interruptions in breathing, and you may not remember it in the morning. Paused breathing during sleep is not uncommon, and it’s often totally normal to have them a few times during the night, and a few pauses won’t have any noticeable impact on one’s sleep, health, and daily life. But when breathing problems occur too many times during sleep, they can be an indication of a chronic condition known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can indeed have a negative impact on your overall health.

The odds that you’ll experience sleep apnea increase with age and weight, and it is more likely to occur in men and postmenopausal women. It is estimated that more than 5% of all adults have sleep apnea, and some don’t even know they have it.

There are three types of sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is caused by upper airway muscles and soft tissues that naturally relax during sleep, thus creating an obstacle to air intake. The chest still moves to take in air, but air is blocked at throat level.

Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is the least common form, and occurs in only about 1 out of 10 apneic cases. Central sleep apnea means that your brain doesn’t send the proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing. Your chest doesn’t expand, and air does not flow through your lungs.

Mixed sleep apnea

Mixed sleep apnea is simply a combination of both: central and obstructive components make up this type of sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea and its symptoms

Sleep apnea is associated with several symptoms during the night:


Choking or gasping during sleep

Waking frequently to urinate (nocturia)

Palpitations or a racing heart rate

Night sweats

Nocturnal heartburn

Frequent awakenings and/or insomnia

These issues decrease your sleep quality, which in turn have daytime consequences including:

  • Morning headache
  • Short-term memory or learning problems
  • Feeling irritable
  • Poor concentration or attention
  • Changes in mood, including depression

How Sleep Apnea impacts your health

Because Sleep apnea affects your sleep, it impairs your brain’s ability to recover, causing symptoms associated with a lack of sleep and brain oxygenation—the seriousness of which can vary.

Cardiovascular diseases

Heart attacks and strokes are more prevalent with apneic people, more so if the condition is untreated.


Sleep apnea increases the risk of diabetes as it can disturb insulin metabolism.

Mood and performance

Depression and a decreased work performance can be consequences of sleep apnea.

How to prevent and fight sleep apnea

Manage your weight:
60% of apneics are overweight or obese (with a BMI above 25). Physicians measure the neck circumference, because the risk of sleep apnea increases with as the size increases. Losing just a few pounds can sometimes alleviate the condition, and drastic weight reduction can, at times, been known to completely suppress it.

Exercise regularly:
Frequent physical activity is proven to benefit overall wellness and improve sleep quality and cardiovascular fitness.

Be responsible with smoking and drinking:
Alcohol and drugs or prescription medications can sometimes decrease breathing by relaxing the central nervous system, which leads to snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Smoke also inflames the upper airway, causing swelling and damage to the cardiovascular system.

Keep a regular sleep schedule:
Consistent bedtime and rise times will benefit your sleep quality and decrease your sleep debt. By simply maintaining a more consistent sleep schedule as well as an optimal sleep environment, you may improve some sleep apnea disorders and symptoms.

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