Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by loud snoring, involuntary pauses in breathing while sleeping, affecting more than 15 million Americans.
While efforts to discover the causes of sleep apnea have yielded no positive result, all gender, age, and race are susceptible to developing sleep apnea. Living without appropriate treatment can lead to life-threatening medical conditions like stroke, daytime sleepiness, and heart attack.
Most people suffering from sleep apnea do not realize they have this condition unless a bed partner or spouse informs them. While sufferers awake intermittently to restore breathing when the oxygen supply ceases, they do not gain full consciousness or realize they are awake to experience these episodes of apnea.
Sleep apnea can affect your body function negatively and alter your sleeping routine, which can increase the risk of an accident. Learn more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment options of sleep apnea.
Categories of Sleep Apnea
There are three categories of sleep apnea, and all are equally dangerous to your health.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most frequently diagnosed type of sleep apnea. This condition results from an obstruction of the soft palate muscle around the base of the tongue.
The airway obstruction causes oxygen depletion in the blood, leading to hypoxia and increasing blood pressure, which causes undue stress to the heart. When this obstructive sleep apnea occurs, the quality of sleep achieved is limited.
Central Sleep Apnea
In central sleep apnea, the brain signal instructing the body muscles to breath gets altered, which causes a delay in response, and all breathing processes cease simultaneously.
While this condition is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea, it limits oxygen supply to body tissues. As a result, a person suffering from central sleep apnea may experience an irregular heartbeat, stroke, or high blood pressure.
Mixed Sleep Apnea
Mixed sleep apnea is less common, but it is marked by a sufferer experiencing both the symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
One of the significant reasons for obstructive sleep apnea is the excessive shrinking and relaxing of the throat muscles and tongue. This condition is common in people with specific health challenges such as obesity. Obesity causes soft tissues in your throat to become enlarged and stiff, which in turn obstructs airway passage.
Central sleep apnea often occurs in people with central nervous system dysfunction. In addition, patients with neuromuscular diseases like Lou Gehrig’s disease and heart diseases have a higher risk of susceptibility.
Other conditions that can cause blockage of your airways include nasal congestion, an underlying neurological problem, lax muscles, and soft tissues in the mouth and throat.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Symptoms of sleep apnea overlap, which makes it difficult to diagnose the form of sleep apnea you are experiencing. Your method provides bed partners are usually the first to be aware of your condition. The most frequently diagnosed symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Loud snoring
While anybody can experience sleep apnea, black people, Hispanic, and Native Americans are more susceptible to developing sleep apnea than white people in the United States.
Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea
The risk factor for developing sleep apnea includes:
Sleep apnea resolves with age in an infant born preterm.
How to Treat Sleep Apnea
Your doctor will recommend a treatment course depending on the severity of your condition. A simple lifestyle change like quitting smoking and alcohol or shedding extra weight may help resolve milder causes of sleep apnea.
Your doctor may recommend other treatment options if the condition is moderate or severe. Other treatment options include:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
This therapeutic method is the most widely used method for treating sleep apnea. The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy method provides a constant air stream through an adjustable mask to suit the patient’s requirement.
sleep specialists may prescribe drugs like acetazolamide, zolpidem, triazolam to treat sleep apnea
Mandibular repositioning device (MRD)
The Mandibular repositioning device is an oral device designed to keep the upper airway open by expanding the space between the tongue and the jaw. Unfortunately, frequent use of this device can trigger a temporomandibular joint disease.
Surgery can help expand the airway by removing obstructive tissues and enlarged tonsils.
Sleep apnea is a severe medical condition that you should not take lightly. Failure to act on time may lead to avoidable complications. If you suspect that you may have sleep apnea, consult a specialist for diagnosis and appropriate treatment.