If your loved one snores, this may be a sign of “sleep apnea.”
All snoring jokes aside, sleep apnea is a serious condition that deprives the brain of oxygen. A person with sleep apnea goes without oxygen for at least 10 seconds, five to 30 (or more) times an hour. It happens because the soft tissues of his or her airways collapse and stick together, blocking air.
What should be restful sleep time is instead mini-suffocations and a nightlong struggle to breathe.
Sleep apnea is more common in men than in women. Aging is a big risk factor. So is nighttime alcohol consumption. Both cause the soft tissue of the airways to lose tone and collapse. Obesity, smoking, and allergies are also contributors (all three narrow the airways).
Sleep apnea has multiple potential consequences.
- Type 2 diabetes. The chronic nightly jolts to the nervous system affect the body’s blood sugar control.
- High blood pressure. Sleep apnea is estimated to be a factor in 38,000 deaths from heart-related problems each year. The risk of heart disease increases by 30% and risk of stroke by 60%.
- Earlier onset of dementia. Those with sleep apnea appear to develop dementia as many as 10 years earlier than their full-breathing peers.
- Depression, foggy thinking, and irritability. Quality of life definitely goes down when you don’t get a good night’s sleep.
- Car accidents. Daytime fatigue seems to result in a 2.5 greater risk of falling asleep at the wheel.
Just because sleep apnea is more common in men does not mean that Mom is immune.
If either parent snores, wakes up with headaches or a dry mouth, complains of daytime fatigue, or has trouble with fuzzy thinking or irritability, talk to the doctor about a sleep apnea test. There are more than a few logs at stake.