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What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. Some of sleep apnea’s symptoms are feeling tired even after long night sleep or snoring loudly.
Types of sleep apnea.
These are the main types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea
More common form and occurs when throat muscles relax.
Central sleep apnea
occurs when your brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Complex sleep apnea syndrome
occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea overlap sometimes making it difficult to determine which type of sleep apnea you have. The most common signs and symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring.
- Often has episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep.
- Gasping for air during sleep.
- Awakening with a dry mouth.
- Morning headache.
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia).
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia).
- Difficulty paying attention while awake.
What are the causes of sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea.
This occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, uvula, tonsils, the sidewalls of the throat, and the tongue. When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. You cannot get enough air which can lower the oxygen levels in your blood. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from your sleep so that you can open your airway. This can happen several times in one night which makes you not reach the deep phases of sleep.
Central sleep apnea.
This is a form of sleep apnea is less common. It occurs when your brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles. This means that you make no effort to breathe for a short period.
What are the risk factors of sleep apnea?
Factors that increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Excess weight – Obesity greatly increases the risk of sleep apnea.
- Neck circumference.
- Being male. Males are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than are females. However, females increase their risk if they are overweight or have reached menopause.
- Being older – sleep apnea occurs more often in older adults.
- Family history – Having family members with sleep apnea might increase the risk.
- Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilizers – These substances relax your throat muscles which can worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
- Smoking – Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than people who have never smoked.
- Nasal congestion – this is difficulty breathing through your nose.
- Medical conditions like heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease are some conditions that may increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Factors that increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
- Being older – older adults have a high risk of central sleep apnea.
- Being male – Central sleep apnea is more common in males than in women.
- Heart disorders – Having congestive heart failure increases the risk of central sleep apnea.
- Using narcotic pain medications.
What are the complications that can result from sleep apnea?
- Daytime fatigue – restless nights due to repeated awakenings from sleep apnea may cause daytime fatigue.
- High blood pressure or heart problems – Rapid drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system.
- Type-2 diabetes – Having sleep apnea increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
- Metabolic syndrome.
- Complications with medications and surgery.
- Liver problems.
- Sleep-deprived partners – Loud snoring can disrupt those around you from having peaceful sleep.
How sleep apnea is treated?
For milder cases, the doctor can recommend lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking.
For severe cases, treatments like devices for unblocking airways and surgery are necessary.