Unless our bed partner is disrupting our sleep, most of us don’t think of snoring as something to be overly concerned about. But frequent, loud snoring may be a sign of sleep apnea, a common and potentially serious disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts as you sleep. If pauses occur while you snore, and if choking or gasping follow the pauses, these are major signs that you have sleep apnea.
Another common sign of sleep apnea is fighting sleepiness during the day, at work, or while driving. You may find yourself rapidly falling asleep during the quiet moments of the day when you’re not active. While obstructive sleep apnea can be common in children, it’s not always easy to recognize. In addition to continuous loud snoring, children with sleep apnea may adopt strange sleeping positions and suffer from bedwetting, excessive perspiration at night, or night terrors.
If you think you might have sleep apnea, go to a sleep specialist. Treatment is necessary to avoid heart problems and other complications, for people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease, and mood and memory problems. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of drowsy driving. For milder cases of sleep apnea, the doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don’t improve your signs and symptoms or if your apnea is moderate to severe, a number of other treatments are available. Certain devices can help open up a blocked airway. In other cases, surgery may be necessary.
With CPAP (Continuous Positive Airways Pressure), the air pressure is somewhat greater than that of the surrounding air and is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring. CPAP devices are lighter, quieter, and more comfortable.