Sleep Apnea Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment
Last Updated on
Sleep Apnea is categorized as a sleeping disorder during which the process of breathing pauses or leads to shallow breathing by the body. The major problem that arises is that these pauses can last from the span of a few seconds and sometimes up to a few minutes. Further, this can happen multiple times. Different forms of these sleep disorders have different repercussions.
The disorder is so common that every 1 in 5 adults are facing the same problem whereas every 1 in 15 does in some of the other way face symptoms varying from being moderate to severe and thereby rendering almost 18 million Americans i.e. almost 20% of the population to be diagnosed and treated for sleep apnea. Before explaining the same, there are three forms of sleep apneas which are as follows:
- Obstructive Apnea (OSA)
- Central Apnea (CSA)
- Combination of both called Mixed apnea
When discussing them in detail it can be clearly stated that OSA which also regarded as one of the most common forms of apnea and can ultimately result to the person suffering from it to have loud snoring followed by choking and snorting sound as the breathing resumes. Sleepiness and tiredness are some of the outcomes for those who suffer from this disorder thereby disrupting normal sleep.
The breathing flow is interrupted and not completely stopped due to blockage of airflow whereas on the other hand in CSA the breathing stops completely due to lack of one’s effort to breathe. It is also very difficult for the person suffering from sleep apnea as its diagnosis is quite difficult. A minimum of five such episodes must occur within an hour for a diagnosis of sleep apnea to be approved by a doctor.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea
OSA which is a very common type of sleeping disorder happens due to the relaxation of the throat muscles after a certain span thereby blocking the flow of air while breathing when one is asleep. There are many more causes for this disorder and some of them are as followed:
1. Muscular Changes
As stated earlier that relaxation of throat muscles can be a major factor in this disorder as the relaxation causes the relaxation of the tongue as well. This blocks the airway and makes it narrow. In the cases of sleep apnea, the inflow and outflow of air in the lungs gets disrupted which in normal cases it does not.
2. Consumption of alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers
These factors, when combined with an already underlying medical condition, can hamper the sleeping process thereby leading to sleep apnea.
This lays down a direct effect on the inflow and outflow of air in the lungs during the breathing procedure. Smoking causes the lungs to not function properly and also reduces the flow of air through the nasal area.
4. Brain function
The function of the brain acts as another major factor in the case of CSA. In these cases, there is some fault with the neurological controls that causes some malfunction with the control and rhythm of the breathing process. This imbalance can also be caused due to some recent use of medication for pain relief or recent ascent to high altitude.
Apart from these causes, there are some risk factors that cause sleep apnea:
More than 50% of the problems related to sleep apnea in a person are due to his or her being overweight. This obesity obstructs the breathing of the person as the excess fat in the body gets deposited in the upper airway which causes difficulty in the breathing of the person suffering from sleep apnea.
6. The family history of sleep apnea
The risk for obstructive sleep apnea increases considerably if the person also has other members of the family suffering from the same apnea.
7. Narrowed Airway
This can happen due to a lot of reasons. A person may have narrowed airways or the other reason for the same can be enlarged tonsils or enlarged adenoids which results in the blocking of the airway causing sleep apnea.
Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
A person suffering from sleep apnea might not be aware of the same and also its symptoms, but the other people around the patient can note the symptoms while they are asleep. Some additional symptoms for such patients are as followed:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up several times at night while sleeping
- A morning headache
- Waking up with dry mouth or a sore throat
- Air gasping during sleep
- Lack of concentration while awake
- Excessive daytime sleepiness or hypersomnia
- Decreased libido
- Erectile dysfunction
Treatment Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be considered a major factor in having a huge impact on the overall health of a person. It also produces more risk to the life of the patient by increasing the chances of threatening complications like heart attack and stroke, depression etc.
Treatment of such patients depends upon two major factors:
- The causes of sleep apnea
- The level of apnea
There are many treatments with the main aim to bring the breathing process to normal while the patient is asleep. Here are some of the most used treatments:
1. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
This is used in the case of severe sleep apnea. With this treatment, the Splint of a patient’s airway is kept open through the pressurized air by wearing a plastic mask and is connected to a small CPAP machine which is very flexible.
This is not considered as the first step towards treatment but the last one. There are several surgical procedures to treat this apnea which again depends upon the individual needs of a person, the stage and causes of apnea.
3. Weight Loss
It is considered one of the most important causes of sleep apnea and when recommended, research has continuously proved that weight loss technique helps in managing and reducing the sleep apnea.
4. Oral Appliance Therapy
There are some special devices designed in a way to keep the throat open by using various techniques.
5. Nasal decongestant
While using CPAP, the patient can use different types of air pressures devices thereby adjusting them when one is asleep.
6. Mandibular repositioning device (MRD)
This is an appliance which is custom made suffering from mild or moderate OSA, thereby holding the individual’s jaw during sleep in a forward position, hence adding up some extra space right behind the tongue for air to flow.
7. Improving Your Bedding
It is considered one of the most serious problems and can involve the following complications:
This is a very normal thing for a person suffering from sleep apnea. Regular awakenings which are generally associated with such a person are fairly normal and make the restoration of sleep impossible. This may lead to a feeling of tiredness throughout the day.
Complications with surgery and medications
OSA is often associated with various medications. A person who is suffering from such a disorder can face many breathing problems especially after major surgery and also while lying on one’s back. It may also lead to some major complications, especially after surgery.
High Blood pressure
The cardiovascular system can be affected by sudden changes in the blood pressure and OSA may increase the risk of High Blood pressure.
Cases of sleep apnea have been increasing not only in the U.S. but all over the globe. If any of the above-mentioned symptoms appear in you or your loved ones, it is highly advisable to visit the doctor. The treatment may help in providing you with ease and preventing further complications.