More Than Just A Relationship Breaker

What is a common risk factor for:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Obesity


Sleep apnea is a common risk factor for all of the above. The first indication of sleep apnea may be your partner complaining of loud snoring. Listen to your partner’s complaints. You may have sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea is defined as one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea (and the cause that results in snoring) is obstructive sleep apnea. As the name implies, obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in the airway. As you try to draw air around the obstruction and into your lungs, the air causes a loud noise – snoring. People who are overweight often have obstructive sleep apnea. The sleep apnea then increases the chance of gaining more weight. The increased weight gain is due to the presence of the stress hormones that the body releases in response to the difficulty breathing. These same hormones increase your heart rate, which increases your risk of heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and irregular heart beats.


The other type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. In this type, your brain doesn’t send the normal signals to your sleep muscles. So, you don’t breath for a while. Your brain begins to send the right signals when your body realizes that it is low on oxygen. You may gasp as you begin breathing once more. Snoring is usually absent with central sleep apnea. However, stress hormones are released just as they are with obstructive sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea results in disturbances of the sleep cycle. These disturbances cause very brief, often unnoticed, interruptions in sleep. The resulting loss of sleep causes daytime sleepiness, which has been related to driving and other accidents.


Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, both with and without snoring are:


  • Morning headaches
  • Memory or learning problems and not being able to concentrate
  • Feeling irritable, depressed, or having mood swings or personality changes
  • Urination at night
  • A dry throat when you wake up


If you think you have sleep apnea, consult you healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may refer you to a sleep specialist. Only a physician can diagnose sleep apnea. Treatment may include devices to help you sleep, lifestyle changes or surgery.


Sleep apnea is not just a snoring joke or a relationship breaker. Sleep apnea can cause medical problems or make them worse. It can seriously affect your life.


If you think you have sleep apnea, consult you healthcare provider.



For more information click on these links.


American Sleep Apnea Association


Mary Lou Bernardo, PhD, MSN


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