What Is Sleep Apnea?
Ever heard of a sleeping disorder that causes you to stop breathing momentarily and not just once but multiple times in your sleep? That’s sleep apnea. Patients who have this disorder experience breathing lapses during their sleep. This condition can have severe consequences for their health. Sleep apnea minimizes the quality of sleep and interrupts the supply of oxygen to the brain. PS.
In the United States, sleep apnea is among the most common sleeping disorders. Sleep apnea doesn’t care what age or sex you are, male or female, young or old; it can affect anyone. However, surveys indicate that sleep affects men more.
Not many people know about sleep apnea, but it’s slowly becoming prevalent. Because of the potential health risks sleep apnea poses, it’s necessary that people know all about sleep apnea, what it is, its causes, symptoms, and how to treat it. Learn more below.
Types Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can occur in three ways:
– OSA(Obstructive sleep apnea): Temporary lapses in sleep result from physically blocking the throat’s airway.
– CSA(Central sleep apnea): Happens when the brain fails to control respiratory muscles causing shallower and slower breathing.
– Mixed sleep apnea: Happens when an individual experiences central and obstructive sleep apnea simultaneously.
OSA and CSA have different causes, symptoms, and treatments.
Is Sleep Apnea Common?
Studies estimate that Obstructive sleep apnea affects 2-9 percent of adult Americans. The number of OSA could be higher, but many cases go undiagnosed. It affects women less in comparison to men.
Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, affects 0.9 percent of Americans above 40 years. It occurs more often in men.
From these statistics, we can conclude that OSA is more prevalent than CSA. That is why when most people speak about sleep apnea, they are generally referring to OSA. One thing that these statistics agree on is the fact that sleep apnea affects men more, especially the older ones.
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Obstructive, central, and mixed sleep apnea share some symptoms.
– Intermittent breathing, which labors an individual’s respiration. Breathing can stop for a whole minute.
– Daytime fatigue and sleepiness
– Headaches in the morning
– Grumpiness and irritability
– Short attention span
Most of these signs and symptoms occur because of poor quality sleep and low amounts of oxygen in the brain, which results from the intermittent breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea has some symptoms of its own like:
– Extreme loud snoring that causes one to choke, gasp for air, and snort, which makes the patient wake up briefly.
– Having a dry or sore throat in the morning.
– Nocturia, a condition that causes you to frequently wake up when sleeping to urinate.
Although chronic snoring is the most prevalent symptom in Obstructive sleep apnea, it doesn’t mean that all people who snore have sleep apnea. Snoring is not common in people diagnosed with CSA.
Generally, people with sleep apnea are strangers to their condition. It takes someone close to them like a roommate, a family member, or a partner to make them aware of their situation. Loners are most likely to notice that they have sleep apnea by experiencing excessive fatigue and sleepiness during the day.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea
OSA happens when there is an obstruction in an individual’s airway when sleeping. The risk of obstructive sleep apnea and blockage can increase due to several factors:
1. Personal anatomy of an individual
The placement and size of an individual’s neck, jaw, tongue, tonsils, and other tissues around the back of a person’s throat can affect airflow.
The leading cause of OSA is obesity. The underlying risk factor of 60% of obstructive sleep apnea is obesity. Being overweight contributes to a person’s airway getting narrower. Recent studies have found that a 10% rise in body weight increases your risk of getting OSA six times more.
3. Use of Alcohol and sedatives.
Prolonged use of sedative drugs or medication relaxes the tissues around the throat, which somehow obstructs the airway.
People who have obstructive sleep apnea in their family history are more likely to develop it.
Studies show that OSA is more likely to develop in smokers, particularly heavy smokers.
6. Sleeping while facing up.
People who sleep on their backs are likely to develop OSA because tissues around the throat and airway collapse easily in this position.
Treatment Options For Sleep Apnea
You should talk to a doctor if you have experienced the symptoms of sleep apnea. First, you will need to know your sleep apnea’s root cause before you can commence treatment. Sometimes, doctors may suggest to study you overnight to assess your sleep and your breathing. Here are a few treatment options for sleep apnea:
– Lifestyle Changes
Once a diagnosis is complete, the doctor may recommend changing your lifestyle as a treatment plan. To remedy some OSA cases, a doctor may suggest that you:
Reduce the use of alcohol and sedative drugs
Sleep on your side
– Special Medical Devices
For more severe cases, a doctor may also recommend using special devices that keep your airway open during sleep like the CPAP(continuous positive airway pressure) and BiPAP(bi-level positive airway pressure).
For persons whose anatomy is the issue, a doctor may suggest using a unique mouthpiece that holds your tongue or jaw in a position allowing the free flow of air in the airway during sleep. They are called sleep apnea mouthguards. Ask your dentist about this solution.
As a last resort option, a doctor may suggest that you go under the knife to rid the back of your throat of excess tissue to expand the airway.
In some instances, doctors may prescribe medication for some symptoms like daytime fatigue or supplemental oxygen for poor respiration patients. If ignored, sleep apnea can lead to costly health problems down the line, hours of lost productivity, and public safety problems.