Habitual snoring can also be, the tip of the iceberg, of a much more serious medical condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA is characterized by repetitive episodes of upper airway obstruction that occurs during sleep, usually associated with a reduction in blood oxygen. (the brain is deprived of oxygen)
OSA syndrome is an important medical disorder that warrants active investigation by means of a clinical evaluation and polysomnography sleep study. Treatment is essential, not only to improve the symptoms that include snoring and sleepiness, but also to prevent the development of cardiovascular complications.
The main problem with OSA is the effect on blood oxygen levels in the body. If we cannot inhale air, oxygen levels are reduced. The brain while we are asleep senses the lack of oxygen and stimulates the body to wake up (called an arousal). Breathing returns to normal till the next blockage. In people with severe OSA these arousal’s can happen up to 400 times per night.
The nights sleep is very disrupted, resulting in excessive daytime sleepiness, confused states, headaches etc the next day. Often the problem is first noticed by the person’s sleeping partner who notices that in addition to snoring the sufferer has periods of non breathing and lie awake fearful that breathing will not start again.
Unfortunately the sufferer normally does not wake long enough to remember in the morning they have had the events. All they know is that they awake tired etc.
This continual arousal pattern ever night has an adverse effect on the sufferer’s day time activity levels and quality of life and often leads to cardiac and blood pressure problems.
Chronic Daytime Sleepiness is really a medical condition and can lead to increased car accidents, work accidents and sick days.
Not to mention the affect on the sleeping or non sleeping partner and others in the household.
in addition to OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA there is CENTRAL SLEEP APNEA.
In central sleep apnea, which is more difficult to treat, the airway isn’t blocked. Instead, your brain periodically fails to trigger your body’s normal breathing reflex, resulting in breathing stoppages. (CPAP or BiPAP are the only treatments for this type of condition)
Some people may have mixed apnea — a combination of obstructive sleep apnoea and central sleep apnea.
In all these types, breathing is interrupted, usually between 10 and 30 seconds at a time, until you rouse to a lighter level of sleep or brief wakefulness. Breathing resumes, but after you again fall asleep, the cycle continues.
Sleep apnea is most common after middle age — and particularly among those who are overweight — but it can also affect children. Many people may be unaware of their condition.