In Greek, the word ‘apnea’ literally means ‘want of breath.’ Sleep apnea is probably a most serious condition where breathing is disturbed at the time of sleeping. The two main types of sleep apnea are Central Sleep Apnea and Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
The latter of the two is more common. However, both the conditions are serious and should be looked into by medical professionals. International students who suffer from sleep apnea can find this obstructing various other parts of their lives as well since disturbed sleep can cause a lot of other problems.
Why Is Sleep Apnea Dangerous in International Students?
As mentioned before, two types of sleep apnea are present.
Central Sleep Apnea develops when the brain somehow is unable to send signals to the muscles of your mouth and throat, which are responsible for controlling as well as initiating breathing. Due to the failure of the signals, the person suffering stops breathing during this period, while they are still in sleep.
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Obstructive Sleep Apnea, which is far more common, occurs when the throat muscles relax, making it difficult or even impossible for air to pass through the mouth and the nose freely.
There is also a third kind of sleep apnea, which is a combination of both these types mentioned above. This is known as Complex Sleep Apnea.
Sleep apnea is dangerous because it results in a lot of symptoms like fatigue, anxiety, restlessness, high blood pressure, and stroke, or even risks of a heart attack.
Since the person suffering from sleep apnea restarts breathing again after a few moments, they might not even be aware that they have this condition. However, the person does not feel well-rested, no matter how many hours of sleep they get. These symptoms can cause depression and anxiety in students and hinder their ability to perform well in school.
How Can Sleep Apnea Be Diagnosed?
A student suffering from sleep apnea may pause breathing and then restart again somewhere between 20 to even 30 times a night. Often, people who go through sleep apnea also experience loud snoring and very laboured breathing. However, since every person who snores does not have sleep apnea, it is not that easy to diagnose.
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When it comes to diagnosing sleep apnea, there are two ways. You can either do this with the help of a doctor, or you can rely on home tests. Of course, when it comes to authentically and accurately diagnosing a condition, it is always best to get an official diagnosis from a doctor.
- Nocturnal polysomnography– This is a more accurate way of diagnosing sleep apnea in a patient. It is done with the help of a doctor at their office typically. For this method, a monitor is hooked on to the patient while they sleep. Vitals like their heart rate, movement of arms and legs, breathing patterns, oxygen levels, and even the lung and brain activity are measured. With the help of these measurements, the doctor can correctly diagnose if the patient is suffering from this condition or not.
- Home sleep tests- In the case of these tests, you will be able to diagnose yourself at home in a very similar way. You will be given specific simplified tests with which you can measure your heart rate, breathing patterns and blood oxygen level. With the help of these measurements, the doctor can help you diagnose if you suffer from the condition of sleep apnea or not.
Who Is More Likely to Develop the Condition?
Students who might be overweight, suffer from situations such as high blood pressure, or have some kind of actual physical abnormality in their airways are far more likely to develop sleep apnea than the average person.
However, the worst part about this condition is that it can be years before the person even realizes that they suffer from this condition.
Although it is noticed that men suffer from this condition more than women, this is not entirely certain. Both men and women of any age can suffer from this condition.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Several symptoms surface when a person is experiencing sleep apnea. The most common symptoms will be headaches in the morning, the feeling of unrest, mood swings and sleepiness during the day. However, other serious symptoms follow, as well.
- Stroke or heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Hypersomnia (falling asleep randomly during the day for short periods)
- Weight gain
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment
- Personality changes
- Lack of focus and concentration
- Leg swelling
How to Treat Sleep Apnea in International Students?
There can be various reasons as to why an individual is suffering from sleep apnea. It is a very complex condition, and the reasons may vary for different people. To properly treat it, the doctor has first to make a proper diagnosis of the condition, the symptoms and the causes behind it.
The best way to diagnose your sleep apnea is to go to a sleep centre and get specific medical tests done by a professional.
In minor cases, the best way to treat sleep apnea is to ask the patient to sleep on their side instead of their backs. In many cases, sleep apnea can be caused due to nasal congestion, so decongestants are prescribed to take care of this.
In more serious cases, like for sleep apnea related to weight, the student can be asked to join a weight loss program. Airway masks can also be beneficial. A CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is a mask that works along with a pump. It helps to keep the airway of the individual open with the help of air pressure.
It is essential not to take medication such as sleeping pills or sedatives, as this may prove to be dangerous for those suffering from sleep apnea.
Of course, there is also the option of surgery, but the individual can explore many other options first before choosing surgery to fix their sleep apnea.
When it comes to international students suffering from sleep apnea, it can heavily affect their everyday life, their studies, and even their mental health. It is essential to get the right diagnosis and get the condition treated at the earliest.