Sleep Apnea Danger

Sleep apnea. It is not funny. It can be deadly. It is also believed to be genetic. Sleep apnea is not only a condition of overweight people. It has more to do with the anatomy of the throat. I know of a few men and women who are thin that have sleep apnea. Weight can contribute because when we go into a deep sleep, the chest and belly muscles relax pressing on the lungs and resulting in quicker loss of air.

About fifteen years ago that I became concerned about my husband’s condition. He has always slept flat on his back and has a tendency to snore loudly. As a very light sleeper myself, his snoring would keep me awake quite often. His snoring used to be in a consistent rhythm. However, I began to notice that he would stop snoring, and in fact would have periods where he would not breathe for several moments at a time. I would wake him up and tell him that he was not breathing. He thought I was just picking on his snoring and became annoyed. One night I decided to tape record him. When I played the recording back to him, he finally believed me.

First we saw an ENT specialist (Ears, Nose and Throat). My husband never had his tonsils out and also has quite a large tongue. The physician scheduled a sleep test at the hospital. He slept overnight with several sensors wired to him attached to a monitor. It was determined that night that he quit breathing around 250 times during in which there were intervals of over one minute (some up to three minutes) between each breath. Since then he has been using a CPAP machine and has felt much better during the day and I have also been able to sleep easier.

When my husband first got his C-Pap machine, it took some adjustments by both of us. I looked over at my sweetheart and he had what looks like an elephant’s trunk. It is the hose from the C-pap machine that compresses air into his mouth and throat. It keeps him alive, and for that I am thankful. It is believed his father died in his sleep because he didn’t have one. My son was recently diagnosed with sleep apnea also. Currently he uses oxygen at night until he gets his machine. He is so young and has small children, so I hope that he will soon be able to sleep better.

During sleep, the brain goes through a series of sleep stages: two stages of light sleep, one of deep sleep, and then REM (rapid eye movement) or dream sleep. Deep sleep is the time when the body is really resting and renewing. During REM brain function is regenerated including thinking, concentration, memory and mood. During REM sleep the muscles relax and the muscles are paralyzed (that is why we do not act out our dreams). The muscles of the throat down to the voice box also relax.

Snoring is caused by the relaxing throat muscles vibrating against each other. The louder the snore, the smaller the opening. The condition is considered sleep apnea when the throat size narrows by 50 percent or more for at least ten seconds, because then the lungs run out of air. Blood oxygen levels fall and blood pressure rises. The brain sometimes bumps itself back into light sleep which awakens the throat, but not the sleeper. This continuous interrupting in deep sleep and bouts of low oxygen and high blood pressure promotes strokes and heart attacks.

Another thing about sleep apnea is it harder to lose weight because the affected are too tired to exercise and tend to sit around more. A person with sleep apnea also does not secrete the chemical that stops you from eating. Those who lack sleep tend to snack on sugary foods that give them a boost of energy leading them to extra calories.

People who sleep on their back are more prone to sleep apnea because the belly has to work harder to push the belly off the lungs which causes the throat to collapse.

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Comments 31 comments

elayne001 profile image

elayne001 4 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thank you rustywhity for your comments. I am glad you are feeling better. I know my husband feels so much better since he has been using his cpap.


rustywhity 4 years ago

Speaking of Devilbiss healthcare...I just got a new pillow mask this week called Aloha. It's small and comfortable and easy for me to breathe against which was my main issue. Let me tell you that you will feel so much better when your body gets the oxygen it needs at night that you will not need a nap any more and you will no longer have depression like I did. Please do it for yourself. You will have energy again. Some people by the first night and others are so sleep deprived that it takes a month. Just do it. You will feel like a healthy youngster again.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thank you DeBilbiss Healthcare for your additional information regarding sleep apnea. Yes, most people associate sleep apnea with being over weight, but I know several tall skinny people that also use a cpap. It could be anatomy and other reasons including lung diseases caused from smoking. I appreciate that.


DeVilbiss Healthcare 5 years ago

A very informative hub, which is obviously attracting a lot of visitors and comments. It's good that there is a place where sufferers (and those people who have to share a bed with them) can talk to each other about their concerns.

I'd just like to congratulate you for pointing out that weight isn't the only issue at play with sleep apnoea: smoking is another major risk factor.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Yes, you should never take sleeping for granted. It is vital and necessary to get a good sleep each night. Thanks ace for your comments.


ace 5 years ago

This is very alarming to some men who has sleep apnea. It's a good thing that this article points out that we should never take this for granted.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks Michael for your comments. You should definitely do something about it. My husband was the same way and he sleeps very well with a cpap now and has much more energy to exercise and do all he wants. He had severe sleep apnea where he stopped breathing up to 250 times in a night. Hope you get some help soon.


Michael 5 years ago

In the last 2yrs, I've gained some weight and unusually lost my zeal to exercise. My snoring became more rampant and I would wake up sometimes with a crazy headache. I also have a nocturnal habit, where I prefer to sleep during the day. Anyways, I was just recently told by 2 seperate lady friends that I stop breathing when I sleep, and it usually occurs when I'm on my back...OMG!!!...stop breathing!!!...yikes!!!

This is def a motivation to get back to exercising, coupled with a change in sleeping position.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thank you Halee for your addition, and you are so right about those additional symptoms. Sorry to hear about your condition, but you are not alone. I also have a cpap whichI am still getting used to, but I do feel better after using it.


Halee 5 years ago

I was diagnosed with complex sleep apnea at 16, I am not overweight but the condition runs in my family, and have had to have a CPAP for 3 years and I absolutely hate it. but it is better than dying, I was really close when I was 16 because my heart was so weak from the condition. Definitely not something to joke about. If you think you might have it get checked now! It could be too late if you wait. Also some other symptoms are kicking of the legs during sleep,waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat,morning headaches,Insomnia or nighttime awakenings,going to the bathroom frequently during the night, Waking up feeling out of breath,forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating,irritability or depression.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Sorry to hear you are still having troubles. Were you diagnosed by a sleep doctor? Sounds like you should check with the doctor to see why that is happening. The chest pain sounds worrisome. Do check with your doctor as you may not be getting enough oxygen. I know they can add oxygen to your cpap air. Don't wait! Be safe!


billtheraider profile image

billtheraider 6 years ago

My CPAP machine is working fine but i still suffer at the on set of sleep i am still waking gasping for air and sometimes with chest pain,Once i am asleep i am fine,But can you tell me what is causing the interuption has i begin to fall asleep?please,and what i can do to improve or prevent this from happening?.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks for your comments U Neek. I appreciate it. Hope you are feeling better.


U Neek profile image

U Neek 6 years ago from Georgia, USA

I suspected that my low energy was causing my sugar cravings. Thanks for sharing.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

That is true Dolores. I remember when I was about four they took mine out, but none of my children have had their tonsils out. It could contribute to sleep apnea.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

I've also read that sleep apnea in children can be relieved by removing the tonsils and adenoids. Years ago, all the kids had their tonsils yanked but in recent years the practice has fallen by the wayside.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Yes, there are a few alternatives. My husband was offered surgery to correct something in his throat that is causing his but they only gave it 50 percent success rate, so he opted out. Thanks for your comments Dolores.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 6 years ago from East Coast, United States

You sure hear a lot about sleep apnea lately. A friend of mine had one of those CPAP machines and hated it. Her dentist was able to fit her with a mouth thingy, a thing that fits over her bottom teeth and pulls her jaw slightly forward. It works!


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

I feel the same way. I'm not sure how I would do with it myself, but my husband sleeps very well with the CPAP machine.


loriamoore 6 years ago

My doctor wanted me to take a sleep study test for sleep apnea, but I know I couldn't be confined to that awful CPAP machine or mask, so I haven't done it.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Glad you are alright. You didn't say how you broke your nose. Were you a boxer? Glad you were helped with surgery and didn't need a cpap. Sleep apnea is no fun.


tobey100 profile image

tobey100 6 years ago from Whites Creek, Tennessee

My wife did the same for me. luckily it turned out I'd just broken my nose so many times I couldn't breath right. One surgery and poof, better breathing, better sleep. Great hub.


isi 6 years ago

Believe me it is much better than the alternative.I have tried all the other methods and found I was more comfortable with the mask and the CPAP. I no longer snore or tired during the day. I have more oxygen in my brain so I do hope to retain my memory and some time I wonder and perhaps that may be just old age. When I go to sleep who care what you look like. I am at peace and happy. Cheers


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks breakfastpop and Linda for your comments. You get used to it. Better than the other alternative.


Linda Myshrall 6 years ago

Elayne- That is positively scary!! I think my husband may have this because he does the *exact* same thing you describe... time to check it out. Thanks, Linda


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Very interesting hub. I have seen that mask and it looks like complete torture, which is why compliance with this treatment is so low.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

You are right JBeadle. Thanks for your comments and good luck in your tests. Hope you only need the mouthpiece. I really don't mind my husband wearing the elephant thingie - it is much better than getting no sleep worrying about him. Aloha!


JBeadle profile image

JBeadle 6 years ago from Midwest

I have sleep apnea and plan to do a sleep study but I've been pushing it off. I don't wake up with headaches but I can fall asleep very easily... which is also a sign I guess. My wife has been bugging me about it since Reggie White died (sleep apenea related). I don't like thinking about using that cpap but I hear sometimes you can use this jaw/mouthpiece which is less intrusive. I'm not overweight, don't sleep on my back and have had my tonsils out - I think my tongue is regular sized... I'm hoping the sleep study says I'm fine but I doubt it. Then I'll look like an elephant! I'm willing to try it to see if there is a difference. I don't like it but dying seems much worse than looking like an elephant.


elayne001 profile image

elayne001 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains Author

Thanks for your comments Hello, hello and Pamela99. I'm grateful we live in a day where the medical field is getting more aware of it. Aloha


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 6 years ago from United States

Great hub. You included a lot of very good information. I don't think most of us understand that this is a common problem.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

This was very interesting to read. I never knew anything about it. Thank you.

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