If you wake up a lot during the night, feel tired throughout the day (even after a full night's sleep) or snore loud enough to keep your spouse or family awake at night, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which you stop breathing in the middle of the night for as long as 60 seconds. Eventually the lack of oxygen causes you to wake up and catch your breath. In many cases, you'll fall back to sleep right away and not remember waking up at all.
What is it about this condition that is so serious? Well, the most severe result would be that you don't wake up at all. While not very common, there are cases where people do not wake up and they ultimately suffocate in their sleep - similar to SIDs in babies.
The more common - and still serious - side effect of sleep apnea is sleep deprivation. There are various stages of sleep, each of which rests and rebuilds different parts of the brain and body. Without the proper amounts of each stage of sleep, serious problems can occur.
Waking up throughout the night - even if you don't recall - has the effect of resetting your sleep cycle. This results in less of the later stages of sleep which can in turn decrease your brain function. Your speech function, reasoning and other brain functions can be affected.
You may be able to identify sleep apnea by having a partner monitor your breathing through the night or by using a tape recorder, but the most effective way to identify it is with a visit to your doctor.
They can send you to a sleep clinic where your sleep will be monitored by various types of equipment throughout the night. These studies can be a little uncomfortable - it's usually harder to get to sleep than it would be at home - but they are an important part of diagnosing the problem.
Once you have a proper diagnosis, your doctor can recommend treatment. There are various types of treatments for sleep apnea and it will depend on your particular situation which one is best.
Do you wake up tired, even after a full night's sleep? Is it affecting your daily activities? You can overcome sleep disorders such as sleep apnea but you need to know how to identify and treat them. Visit http://www.sleepconditions.com to learn more about sleep disorders and what can be done to treat them.