What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea refers to a disorder in which breathing is interrupted repeatedly during sleep. A person suffering from sleep apnea often snores loudly and even stops breathing while sleeping.
There are mainly two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: In this type of sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted by blockage of airflow. It usually happens when throat muscles collapse during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea: In this case, the brain fails to send proper signals to muscles that control breathing.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
Sleep apnea can drastically affect the sleep pattern and eventually create difficulties during day time. Below are some of the most common sleep apnea symptoms that people experience:
- Loud snoring
- Soar and dry throat upon waking
- Morning headaches
- Chocking sensation during the sleep
- Lack of energy in the day
- Mood changes, forgetfulness
- Trouble in breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleep
- Decreased sexual desire or sexual dysfunction
Who is at Risk?
Sleep apnea can happen to anyone, even children. Some of the common sleep apnea risk factors that increase your risk are as follows:
- Being overweight as the fat deposits around the neck can obstruct breathing
- Having thicker necks as it might have narrower airways
- Being over age 40 is another common reason for sleep apnea
- Having large nostrils or tongue
- A family history of sleep apnea
- Having a small jaw bone
- Being male as they are three times more likely to have sleep apnea than a female
- Experiencing nasal obstruction due to allergies or sinus problem
Sleep Apnea Causes
There are various sleep apnea causes that can contribute to blockage of the airway:
- Muscular Changes: In some people, the muscles that keep the airway open relax along with tongue.
- Physical Obstructions: A thick neck or excessive fat storage around the airway may restrict the airflow. This can lead to snoring, a common symptom of sleep apnea.
- Brain function: In central sleep apnea, the brain does not function properly. This can be linked to an underlying condition such as heart failure, or neuromuscular diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease.
How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
For a sleep apnea diagnosis, the doctor will follow an easy process:
- First, the doctor evaluates the signs and symptoms along with the sleep history. Family members or the person who shares your bed can provide the details.
- Then you will be asked to take a sleep apnea test known as a polysomnogram. This can be done either at home or sleep disorder center. The test records your sleep pattern and physical activities to determine whether you have sleep apnea or not.
- The doctor may further conduct simple tests like EEG, EOG, EMG, ECG to record your body movements while sleeping.
How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?
Sleep apnea treatment varies from person to person. In milder cases, the doctor may recommend changes in lifestyle such as quitting smoking or exercises.
In case the symptoms are moderate to severe, there are various sleep apnea treatments available:
- Breathing appliances: Doctors may suggest the use of breathing appliances such as Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP), Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP), Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP or BPAP) or Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV) to ensure that the airways remain open and you can experience proper breathing during sleep.
- Surgery: One of the most common types of surgery used for sleep apnea is Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP). This involves the removal of extra tissues from the back of the throat to avoid any obstruction.
Sleep apnea cure is not restricted to surgery and medical devices. You must consider a sleep apnea doctor who combines therapies with lifestyle changes.
Here at Care. Fit, we ensure that you get the best consultation from a qualified healthcare specialist. From ENT to Neurology, we provide a range of healthcare services. You just need to check our app or website to book an online consultation.
How Can Sleep Apnea Be Prevented?
For sleep apnea prevention, you can make some lifestyle changes such as:
- Eat healthy diets
- Avoid taking sleeping pills before bed
- Reduce weight
- Perform regular exercise
- Quit smoking as it increases swelling in the upper airway and causes obstruction in breathing
- Avoid alcohol before sleeping
- Change sleep positions for improved breathing