What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which a person stops breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night, and often for a minute or longer. A sufferer of sleep apnea has frequent episodes (up to 400-500 per night) in which he or she stops breathing. Sleep apnea warning signs include excessive snoring, choking, or gasping during sleep. There are three different types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea (a combination of the two).
The Greek word "apnea" literally means "without breath." With each apnea event, the sleeper's brain briefly arouses in order to resume breathing, causing sleep to be extremely fragmented and of poor quality. Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can cause many health problems if left untreated. Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institute of Health.
Central Sleep Apnea:
Central sleep apnea occurs when the airway remains open, but the brain's nerve signals fail to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations. CSA occurs during sleep because when a person is awake, breathing is usually stimulated by other signals, including conscious awareness of breathing rate.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It is thought that about 1-10% of adults are affected by OSA; only about one tenth of that number have CSA. OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes off during sleep. Obesity, especially obesity in the neck, can increase the risk of developing OSA, because the fat tissue tends to narrow the airway. In some people, the airway is blocked by enlarged tonsils, an enlarged tongue, jaw deformities, or growths in the neck that compress the airway.
A combination of the two forms is also possible, and is called "mixed sleep apnea." Mixed sleep apnea episodes usually begin with a reduced central respiratory drive, followed by obstruction.
Some of the Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea Include:
Yet sleep apnea can affect both males and females of all ages, including children and any weight.
- male sex
- age over forty
- a family history of sleep apnea
- a large neck
- a recessed chin
- abnormalities in the structure of the upper airway
- ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Mexicans)
Most Common Symptoms: (You should visit your doctor if you have several of these symptoms)
Untreated, Sleep Apnea can cause or worsen:
- loud snoring
- waking up tired and having trouble concentrating or staying awake during the day
- waking up with headaches, or dry mouth
- waking up during the night with a choking sensation
- perspiring excessively during the night
- a dry mouth upon awakening
- reduced libido
- frequent trips to the bathroom during the night
- restless sleep, tossing and turning
- rapid weight gain
- chest pulls in during sleep in young children
- high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease (up to 50% of sa patients have high blood pressure)
- memory problems
- weight gain
- impotency and sexual dysfunction
- migraine headaches
- job impairment and motor vehicle crashes
- hyperactivity in children
- risk for heart attack and stroke
- sudden infant death syndrome
- depression and anxiety
- increase in the number of red blood cells (polycythemia)
- enlarged left ventricle of the heart (cor pulmonale)
- left ventricular failure
- life-threatening heart arrhythmias, including heartbeat slowing (bradycardia), and racing (tachycardia)
- Pickwickian syndrome
- right heart failure
- pulmonary hypertension
- chronic daytime low blood oxygen (hypoxemia) and increased blood CO (hypercapnia)
How do you Know if you have Sleep Apnea?
If you or someone you know has some of the common symptoms or risk factors for sleep apnea, it is important to see a doctor for an in-depth examination and diagnosis. Diagnosis of sleep apnea is not simple because there can be many different reasons for disturbed sleep. Several tests are available for evaluating a person for sleep apnea. Some of the most common tests and procedures used to access sleep apnea are Polysomnography, and the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT). Diagnostic tests are usually performed in a sleep center, but new technology may allow sleep studies to be conducted in the home.
How is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Behavioral Changes to help ease Mild Sleep Apnea:
The treatment of Sleep Apnea can be very complicated and not every patient responds as well as others to the various attempted methods. The common treatments can include surgeries like Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), and Tracheostomy. Other options include oxygen administration, Nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), and dental appliances that reposition the lower jaw and the tongue. Medications are generally not effective in the treatment of sleep apnea.
- Reducing the causes of sleep apnea, such as: obesity, smoking, tranquilizers, sleeping pills or alcohol use.
- Sleeping on the back. People who snore should use pillows and other devices that help them sleep in a side position.
- Adjustable beds elevate the head and lessen symptoms
Dormia's website is provided for general information only, and should not
be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care
professional. Advanced Comfort is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user
based on the content of this website. Always consult your own GP if you're in any way
concerned about your health.