Sleep apnea is characterized by episodes of cessation of breathing during night time sleep that can occur as often as several hundred times in a night. Snoring is a warning that the sleeper may be a victim of sleep apnea.
The individual with sleep apnea is rarely aware of having difficulty breathing, even upon awakening. Sleep apnea is recognized as a problem by others witnessing the individual during episodes or is suspected because of its effects on the body. Symptoms may be present for years or even decades without identification, during which time the sufferer may become conditioned to the daytime sleepiness and fatigue associated with significant levels of sleep disturbance.
Sleep apnea causes the throat to collapse during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs. Generally, your throat muscles keep the throat and airway open. Causes of an obstructed airway include:
• Shape of head and neck – some head and neck shapes can create a smaller than normal airway. • Large tonsils or adenoids – this or other anatomical differences such as a deviated septum, enlarged tongue, or receding chin can also create difficulties breathing during sleep. • Excess weight or obesity – although slim people can suffer from sleep apnea, obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea. • Abnormally relaxed throat muscles and tongue – this can be due to alcohol or sedative use before bedtime.
Because alcohol can abnormally relaxed throat muscles and tongue, you may not start breathing again. And this is the reason that anyone who suffers from sleep disorders, should not be drinking heavily, if any at all.
A CPAP machine is on form of treatment for sleep apnea. A CPAP machine blows pressurized air into a mask worn over the nose to keep the patient’s airway open during sleep. This is the most common long-term treatment for severe sleep apnea.
An electronic circuit monitors the patient’s breathing and provides two different pressures: one for inhalation and one for exhalation. This treatment is sometimes used for patients who find breathing out against increased pressure to be uncomfortable or disruptive to their sleep. Oral devices such as dental appliances open the patient’s airway by bringing the lower jaw or tongue forward during sleep. Two common oral devices are the Mandibular Res¬positioning Device and the Tongue Retaining Device.
Surgically removing tissue such as tonsils, adenoids, or excess tissue at the back of the throat or inside the nose increases the size of the patient’s airway, allowing better airflow during sleep. Oxygen is provided to the patient via a small tube that fits inside the nose. This treatment is rarely used, although it is occasionally employed in conjunction with CPAP.
So, you can see why alcohol and a sleep disorder do not mix as the level of carbon monoxide in the brain could be so much, that you will not breathe.