Sleep Apnea: What Are The Causes?

Sleep Apnea is a condition in which disturbed breathing interrupts sleep. It’s one of the most common medical conditions in adults, affecting up to 5% of women and 15% of men between the ages of 30 and 60.

The Difference Between Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Most people suffering from sleep apnea also snore, but there’s a big difference between the two conditions. While snoring can be annoying, sleep apnea can be life-threatening.

During an apnea episode, the body’s oxygen levels can drop noticeably, carbon dioxide can build up, and the heart will have to work harder to cope.

Each time it happens, the brain sends a wake up signal so that the person can breathe, and this means never getting a good night’s sleep.

Untreated sleep apnea can can many health problems.

There are Three Types of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type, happens when air cannot get into the lungs because the upper airway has collapsed.

It’s more common in men and in people who are overweight, especially those who sleep on their backs. In people of normal weight who have the condition, there’s often an abnormality in the lower face, such as having a small chin, an overbite, or a large tongue. Obstructive sleep apnea typically has three phases:

  1. First, the airway is partly blocked as the soft tissue at the back of the throat relaxes and starts to close up, causing very loud snoring.
  2. Eventually, the airway collapses and the person stops breathing for at least 10 seconds and up to 2 minutes.
  3. Finally, the sufferer wakes up briefly (although they rarely are aware of it), struggling to breathe, snorting or gasping for air.
  4. Once a breath is taken, however, the person falls back asleep and the cycle repeats itself.

Central sleep apnea, which is quite rare, results when the brain fails to send signals to the chest to breathe properly while asleep. Here too, however, the person ends up waking up repeatedly during the night to breathe.

Mixed sleep apnea, as the name suggests, is a combination of the first two types. It always starts out as central sleep apnea, and then turns into OSA.

Symptoms and Complications of Sleep Apnea

Unfortunately, most people with sleep apnea don’t even know they have it. Over 10 million Americans are thought to have undiagnosed sleep apnea. The American Sleep Apnea Foundation has come up with a simple quiz to help people find out if they have sleep apnea. Anyone who answers “yes” to any of the following questions should talk to a doctor:

  • Are you a loud, habitual snorer?
  • Do you feel tired and groggy when you wake up?
  • Are you often sleepy during the day?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Are you known to choke, gasp, or hold your breath while asleep? You may want to ask your partner about this.

Daytime sleepiness is probably the most important symptom that patients notice, since it can make it hard to stay awake, concentrate and work. People can even end up losing their jobs if they’re always nodding off during the day.

An especially dangerous problem is drowsiness while driving or operating machinery – people with sleep apnea get into more accidents than average.

It’s best for people with sleep apnea to avoid driving if they feel sleepy, or to stop driving completely until the sleep apnea is under control.

Sleep apnea can also lead to headaches, memory problems, and depression.

In severe cases, complications including high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and abnormalities in heart function such as heart failure and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat) can develop or worsen due to sleep apnea.

Making the Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

A doctor will ask more detailed questions to find out whether someone has the symptoms of sleep apnea and will examine them physically to see what might be blocking the airway.

 Routine blood tests, blood pressure readings, and examinations of the heart might be done to see if there are physical complications from sleep apnea or to rule out other possible conditions.

To confirm that the condition is sleep apnea, however, a test called overnight polysomnography may be done.

For this test, a variety of measurements are taken while the person sleeps in a specialized sleep laboratory.

Medications  for Sleep Disorders 

Sleep apnea is a condition that is associated with interruptions to breathing during sleep.  This is a common disorder that affects million of people all around the world. 

 This can be a very scary for the person who suffers as well as their family.  The problem is that many people who suffer are not even aware that they have sleep apnea.

There are different types of sleep apnea that one can suffer from.  The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. 

 Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when too little air gets in the lungs through the mouth and nose.  As a result of this lack of oxygen, the oxygen in the blood drops too low and the body cannot function the way it should.

Treatment Methods for Sleep Apnea

 There are a few different treatment methods that are used to treat apnea, but medication for sleep apnea has been the most effective for most patients.  

In fact, the medication for apnea has been so effective that it is the most popular treatment course.

Modafinil is the most commonly used medication for sleep apnea today.  This is a pill that is taken once a day and helps to decrease the tiredness that is caused by apnea during the day.  It affects the chemicals in the brain to help with alertness and memory.

There are some side effects that you should be aware of such as headache, nausea, nervousness, anxiety, upset stomach, dizziness, and back pain.  If you are taking this medication and you begin to experience these problems you need to contact your doctor.

This medication is a very common treatment, but doctors will not usually try this if other options have been tired before hand.  You need to go to the doctor and be honest with him or her with how you are feeling and what you have tried.

Sleep apnea is a frightening and even inconvenient condition, but with treatment it doesn’t need to be anything that impacts your life in a negative way.  

Just make sure that you work as closely as possible with your doctor so that your life with apnea is as productive as possible.

CPAP Machine

Continuous positive airway pressure  or CPAP is the gold standard for treating sleep apnea.

The biggest complaints I hear from researchers believe that using continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP which is a therapy  often used in the treatment of sleep apnea, it would also indirectly aid in improving diabetes.

Thus, for those having a sleep apnea diabetes condition, CPAP will do more than simply improve breathing patterns because it also helps to control the level of glucose in the blood.

You should talk to your doctor about whether or not this is an option for you!

What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when there is insufficient airflow in the upper airway during sleep. Sleep apnea is dangerous because it can affect your heart and lungs. In adults, the most common cause is obesity.

References

Obstructive Apnea

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