Sleep apnea is a condition that many individuals suffer from without even knowing it. It is a sleep disorder in which individuals stop breathing while they sleep. These intervals vary from individual to individual and can be 10 to 30 seconds.
The intervals happen numerous times during the night and can even occur over 400 times in a night, disrupting the individual’s sleep pattern.
There are two main classifications of sleep apnea, obstructive and central.
Both are caused by different factors.
The majority of individuals with sleep apnea experience obstructive sleep apnea. This is caused by a blockage of the path of air into the lungs. The blockage prevents the body from inhaling enough air and is usually blocked by the tongue, tonsils, or the fatty tissues in the throat.
While not as common, central sleep apnea is caused when the central nervous system is not functioning as it should as you sleep. The muscles used for breathing don’t get signals from the brain to breathe. This can either be caused by the signal being interrupted or the brain not sending it at all.
It is difficult for individuals to determine whether they have sleep apnea because, well, they are unconscious and asleep. However, a partner can help identify sleep apnea which has the following symptoms:
Feeling of fatigue and sleepy during the day, easily irritable
Frequently waking up at night and restlessness
Experiencing dry mouth when you wake up
Often waking up to use the bathroom
Choking or gasping for air as you sleep
Decreased sex drive
If sleep apnea is not treated, it can result
in serious problems such as:
High blood pressure
Certain factors may increase the chances of an individual having sleep apnea.
Having excess weight increases the risk of sleep apnea. Anyone with a body mass index of 25 or more is more likely to get it. They usually experience obstructive sleep apnea due to excessive muscle tissues in the neck which can lead to the airway passage being blocked as they sleep.
While there is no age limit to when sleep apnea can occur, it is more likely in middle-aged individuals.
The male gender is more likely to experience sleep apnea than females. However, when females hit menopause, their likelihood to experience sleep apnea increases.
Sleep apnea is a condition you can inherit. Since there are physical conditions such as obesity and recessed jaw that contribute to obstructive sleep apnea, it is common for it to be inherited.
Treatment for sleep apnea is determined by the severity and type of sleep apnea an individual has.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) is a machine that helps an individual breathe throughout the night. The machine provides a constant stream of air that nudges the airway to open up throughout the night so the body gets plenty of air. The machine is attached to a mask which the individual wears throughout the night.
Oral Appliance Therapy
Oral appliance therapy is a device similar to a mouth guard that individuals with sleep apnea wear. The device ensures that the jaw is positioned as such that the tongue doesn’t block the airway and air flows easily down the trachea.
Surgery is typically only used when CPAP and oral appliance therapy both fail to treat sleep apnea. Removing the fatty tissues in the neck that are blocking the passage of the air, this surgery has been proven to help severe cases. Surgery may also be used to restructure the nose, jaw, or facial bones if they are the cause of sleep apnea.
Being overweight or obese can result in a thicker neck with extra tissues that block the airway. Sleep apnea doctors may recommend losing weight to get rid of the extra tissues. However, there is no guarantee that if you lose weight, you will no longer have sleep apnea.
Limiting or stopping the consumption of sleep medicines and alcohol, both of which relax the throat muscles.
Smokers should quit smoking.
Overweight individuals should lose weight.
You should sleep on your side rather than your back.