Sleep Apnea: The Causes and Cures

by Beth Munoz

Posted on Thursday 23rd of October 2008


If you are a parent, or have simply taken care of a baby, then you know about the issue of infant crib death. This can happen to children whose parasympathetic nervous system stops working while they sleep. Thus, they stop breathing.

Adults can end up with a form of this problem too, except this time it is in the form of a sleep disorder called sleep apnea. Those who are not aware of this sleep disorder might, upon finding out more about it, think that it is something that only a few people suffer from. However, sleep apnea is something that millions of people get in their lifetime.

So, what exactly is sleep apnea? It is a sleep disorder in which a person stops breathing for a minute at a time, or sometimes more. Now, take a moment to consider this situation. Pretend that you are swimming underwater. How long can you hold your breath? The average human can hold their breath for about a minute and a half.

When a person with sleep apnea stops breathing for that time, the body can usually recover from it since it was just a minute. However, some people with this sleep disorder stop breathing for even longer periods of time, which obviously can lead to severe health problems.

The human body can survive without oxygen for about fifteen minutes before it goes into complete cardiac arrest. However, that does not mean that the brain can function well after such an episode. Unfortunately, many people who have this sleep disorder do not actually have any idea that they have it until they get a real health scare.

How can you tell if you have this problem? Well first, check out the overall sleep disorder situation in your own family, because this condition is often genetic. Another thing that you can do is pay attention to your overall cognitive abilities. If you feel rested everyday, but are having trouble remembering things and feel lightheaded, you will want to check with your doctor.

Obviously, if you think that you might be suffering from this condition, you want to know how this condition is diagnosed in first place. Well, in order to really be certain, you will have to participate in a sleep study. You will have to, in essence, spend a night in a controlled medical setting where you can be closely monitored.

Another thing that you might want to know is what causes this sleep disorder in the first place. Well, there are a number of different causes, but the most prevalent is obesity. When an obese person lies down to go to sleep at night, the excess weight really puts a lot of direct pressure on the heart and respiratory system. In an effort to avoid significant strain, the respiratory system will try to "rest" itself.

When it comes to the different kinds of treatments for this problem, the first thing that will be recommended to obese people is that they lose weight. This could actually make all the difference for them in a variety of different ways.



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