Sleep apnea is a serious condition that affects millions of people around the world. It’s caused by a temporary blockage in your throat while you sleep. This blockage can cause you to snore loudly, stop breathing for long periods of time, or even stop breathing altogether. If you snore and stop breathing during your sleep, you could develop a serious condition called obstructive sleep apnea. In this article, we give you a detailed explanation of sleep apnea and how it affects your health. We also give you an overview of the most common treatments for this condition.
What Is Sleep Apnea? Detailed Explanation of Sleep Apnea
When a person’s breathing is interrupted while they sleep, it’s called sleep apnea. Sometimes hundreds of times during the night, people with sleep apnea stop breathing when they sleep. If sleep apnea is not treated, it can cause a lot of health problems, including hypertension, stroke, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, and heart attacks. Job impairment, work-related accidents, and motor vehicle crashes, as well as underachievement in school in children and adolescents, can all be caused by sleep disorders.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep apnea: When your upper airway becomes blocked many times while you sleep, it’s called Obstructive Sleep apnea. It’s the most common type of sleep apnea. Changes in your hormones can increase your risk for sleep apnea, as can the narrowing of your airway.
Central sleep apnea:
Your brain does not send the signals needed to breathe when you have central sleep apnea. Health conditions that affect how your brain controls your airway and chest muscles can cause sleep deprivation.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the blocking or collapse of the airway. They include some of the following.
- thickened tissues and additional fat stores around the airway
- lax muscles and other tissues in the mouth and throat
- an underlying neurological problem
- nasal congestion
These can result from:
- colds and allergies
- genetic factors
- heart or kidney failure
- thyroid problems
- large or swollen tonsils
Babies born prematurely may have sleep apnea, but it usually resolves by the time they are older.
Risk of Sleep Apnea
People of all ages can be affected by sleep apnea. The factors that increase your risk are listed below.
Obstructive sleep apnea
- Being male. Men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women. However, after menopause, women’s risk increases if they’re overweight and if they’re morbidly obese.
- Excess weight. The risk of sleep apnea is greatly increased by obese people. If you have fat deposits around your airway, it can make it hard to breathe.
- Nasal congestion. If you have trouble breathing through your nose, it’s more likely that you will develop sleep apnea.
- Neck circumference. A person with a thicker neck might have a narrower airway.
- A narrowed airway. It is possible that you have a narrow throat. There are tonsils and adenoids which can block the airway in children.
- Being older. Older adults are more likely to suffer from sleep Apnea.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers. These substances relax the muscles in your throat, which can make it harder to sleep.
- Family history. It might increase your risk if you have family members who have sleep apnea.
- Smoking. The substances relax the muscles in your throat, which can make sleep apnea worse. Smoking increases inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
Central sleep apnea
- Heart disorders. The risk of having heart failure increases with it.
- Being older. Older and middle-aged people have a higher risk of central sleep apnea.
- Using narcotic pain medications. Opioid medications such as methadone can increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
- Being male. Men and women have different rates of central sleep apnea.
- Stroke. If you’ve had a stroke, you’re more likely to suffer from central sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The daytime effects of reduced sleep quality, as well as the effects of abnormal nighttime breathing, are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Irritability or frustration
- Loud snoring is often accompanied by gasping or choking sounds.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- After waking up, there may be headaches that last for several hours.
- Restless sleep with periods of wakefulness during the night
- Increased need to get up from bed to urinate
- Dry mouth upon awakening
- Reduced focus
Some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation may not be noticed immediately by the person with the condition. For example, it is only after a bed partner observes abnormal breathing and snoring that a person’s attention will be drawn to them. Many of the symptoms of sleep apnea can also be caused by other health issues, so it can’t be diagnosed by symptoms alone.
How to Diagnose Sleep Apnea?
If you feel tired or sleepy during the day, you should consult a medical provider to find out why and take steps to address the problem.
The medical provider can start by asking a number of questions.
- On weekdays and weekends, what is your sleep schedule like?
- What time does it take you to fall asleep?
- Do you take any medication to help you sleep?
- How much sleep are you getting each night?
- Has anyone ever told you that you snore?
- Do you wake up with a sense of panic or fright?
- What do you feel when you wake up?
- Are you falling asleep while reading or watching television?
- Do you know if anyone in your immediate family has a sleep disorder?
- What is your sleep environment like?
What are the effects of sleep apnea?
A number of health problems including hypertension, stroke, arrhythmias, cardiomyopathy, heart failure, diabetes, and heart attacks can be caused by sleep apnea.
If you have sleep apnea, you tend to have higher blood pressure, which can cause arrhythmias and heart failure.
In fact, approximately 50% of people with heart failure have sleep apnea.
The reason behind this is sleep apnea can cause:
- Pressure changes within the chest can have direct effects on the heart.
- Changes in carbon dioxide levels.
- Increased levels of markers of inflammation.
- Repeated episodes of oxygen lowering (what doctors call hypoxia).
The high prevalence of sleep apnea in cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure is a coin flip as to whether or not the patient has it. Experts say that you should seek the advice of your physician.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea?
Treatment aims to make breathing easier during sleep and address any underlying health problems. The options will be determined by the severity of the symptoms and the cause.
The first steps in treatment include lifestyle modifications, which are essential to normalizing breathing.
- limiting alcohol consumption
- quitting smoking
- developing healthy sleeping habits
- managing weight
- sleeping on the side
- following a heart-healthy diet
Home remedies may be able to help with sleep disorders.
Other treatment options include:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
The main treatment for sleep apnea is this one. It keeps the airway open by giving a constant stream of positive pressure air through a mask. Some people can’t use the treatment hence they stop it before achieving any benefit. However, it is possible to make the equipment more comfortable and smooth the adjustment period. A person has the ability to change the mask’s settings. Adding moist air to the air through the mask can help with symptoms of the nose.
There are surgical procedures that widen the airway. Excess tissue or enlarged tonsils can be removed using surgery. Depending on the extent of the surgery, the person can have it done in a doctor’s office or hospital.
Mandibular repositioning device (MRD)
There is a custom-made oral appliance that can be used by individuals with mild or moderate OSA. The jaw is held in a forward position during sleep so that the space behind the tongue can be expanded. Keeping the upper airway open helps prevent snoring and apnea. There are possible side effects of an MRD, such as jaw or tooth pain, and the possibility of temporomandibular joint disease.
CSA can be helped by some drugs, but only after consultation with a sleep specialist.
These may have adverse effects and may not be suitable for everyone.
Sleep apnea is a condition in which people stop breathing for short periods during the night. This happens when the muscles that hold your airway open relax and the airway closes.
People who have sleep apnea can reduce their risk by losing weight and quitting smoking. Also, people with sleep apnea should avoid alcohol and use caffeine in moderation.
The first step in diagnosing sleep apnea is to get a full medical history and a physical examination. You may also need to get a sleep study.
Untreated sleep apnea can cause serious health problems. These include: – Stroke – Heart attack – High blood pressure – Diabetes – Depression – Anxiety
Sleep apnea is caused by a narrowing of the airway. As a result, the body’s tissues and organs have difficulty getting enough oxygen. This leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, poor concentration, and irritability. It is also linked to heart disease, diabetes, and other conditions. We always suggest you get yourself checked by a doctor if you notice any of the symptoms of sleep apnea.
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