Sleep apnea is a condition wherein a person experiences interruptions in their breathing pattern during sleep. This is a serious disorder because it can result in a shortage of oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. The pauses in breathing can range anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. This condition often goes undiagnosed primarily because there are no blood tests to help identify the condition and it manifests itself only during sleep. The two primary types of sleep apnea are: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Both conditions can have a negative impact on the quality of sleep.
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Some of the symptoms associated with these two types of sleep apnea are similar and this can make arriving at an accurate diagnosis a difficult process.
There are two different kinds of sleep apnea, obstructive and central, each with different causes. There is also a variety of risk factors associated with the disease.
Risk factors are greater in:
When sleep apnea is suspected, a doctor might recommend a polysomnogram, which monitors the patient while asleep. Also known as a 'sleep study', this test is done at a sleep disorder center or at home. Home sleep tests involve measuring heart rate, blood oxygen level, and breathing patterns with the assistance of portable devices. In some cases, this provides enough data for a doctor to arrive at a diagnosis. If not, the test might have to be done at a sleep disorder center where sophisticated equipment is used to monitor these factors.
In mild cases of sleep apnea, doctors generally recommend lifestyle changes such as losing weight, changing sleep positions to facilitate better breathing, quitting smoking, and staying away from alcohol or sleeping pills. However, a doctor may recommend more other options.
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