Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by abnormal breathing while sleeping. People who suffer from sleep apnea experience several prolonged pauses in their breathing while sleeping. These little breathing pauses impair sleep quality and reduce the body's oxygen supply, potentially resulting in significant health effects. One of the most prevalent sleep disorders in the United States is sleep apnea. It can affect infants, adults, and people of both sexes. However, men are more likely to be affected.As the frequency and possible health consequences of sleep apnea, people must understand what it is, as well as its kinds, symptoms, causes, and treatments.
Sleep apnea may be classified into three types:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): is a condition that develops when the airway at the back of the throat gets physically obstructed. This blockage causes brief pauses in breathing.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): CSA occurs when the brain's mechanism for regulating muscles involved in respiration malfunctions, resulting in slower and shallower breathing.
Mixed Sleep Apnea
Mixed Sleep Apnea: This condition occurs when a person has both OSA and CSA at the same time. It is also known as complicated sleep apnea. The underlying reasons differ, the symptoms, causes, and therapies of OSA and CSA differ significantly.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is estimated to afflict 2-9 percent of individuals in the United States, although many instances are thought to go untreated, which aligns with studies that show a significantly higher prevalence of OSA. Precise prevalence is difficult to calculate since different research employed different criteria for identifying the disease. However, one constant result is that OSA affects males more than women. It can affect persons of any age, although it is more prevalent in elderly people. It has been shown that central sleep apnea affects approximately 9% of adults over the age of 40. It is found much more frequently in men than in women.As this data demonstrates, OSA is much more common than CSA. For this reason, when people talk about “sleep apnea,” they are generally referring to OSA.
All three types of sleep apnea share certain common symptoms:
Disrupted breathing in which a person’s respiration can become labored or even stop for up to a minute at a time
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Limited attention span or difficulty thinking clearly
Many of these symptoms are caused by a lack of sleep and reduced oxygen levels as a result of irregular breathing.
Obstructive sleep apnea is associated with the following additional symptoms:
Snoring, notably snoring that is very loud and involves gasping, choking, or snorting may cause a person to temporarily awaken.
Sore throat or dry mouth in the morning
Frequent urination drives at night (nocturia)
The most frequent sign of OSA is chronic snoring. However, this does not imply that everyone who snores has sleep apnea. Snoring is not a common symptom of CSA patients.In most cases, a person suffering from sleep apnea is unaware of their breathing issues at night. As a result, people frequently learn about the problem from a bed partner, family member, or roommate. Excessive daytime drowsiness is the most common sign of sleep apnea in persons who live alone.
When a person's airway becomes obstructed while sleeping, this is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. Several variables have been identified as increasing the likelihood of obstruction and OSA:
Characteristics of anatomy: Airflow can be directly affected by the size and placement of a person's neck, jaw, tongue, tonsils, and other tissue towards the back of the throat.
Obesity: It is a major cause of OSA and may be an underlying risk factor in up to 60% of cases. Obesity adds to structural constriction of the airway, and studies have shown that a 10% increase in weight can result in a six-fold increase in OSA risk.
Drugs: Sedatives, including alcohol, are used. Sedatives and medicines can relax the tissue in the throat, making it easier for the airway to become blocked.
History in the family: People who have one or more close relatives who suffer from OSA are more prone to get the condition themselves.
Smoking cigarettes: People who smoke, particularly heavy smokers, have been reported to develop OSA at a greater rate8 than nonsmokers.
Sleeping posture: This sleeping posture promotes tissue collapse surrounding the airway, resulting in obstructions.
Congestion in the nose: People who have difficulty breathing through their nose due to congestion are more prone to suffer from OSA.
Breathing is impacted differently in CSA than in OSA. The issue originates in how the brain interacts with the muscles responsible for respiration, rather than a blockage causing breathing pauses. The brain stem, in particular, fails to effectively sense the amounts of carbon dioxide in the body, resulting in slower and shallower breathing than is normal.CSA is frequently associated with an underlying medical issue. A stroke, a brain infection, or, in rare circumstances, a brain tumor can all harm the brain stem. Opioids, which are used to treat pain, can also interfere with the natural breathing mechanism.Heart failure is thought to be a risk factor for CSA, and CSA can also occur when a person's oxygen levels are disrupted due to being at a high altitude.
What Are the Health Consequences of Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can cause sleep loss due to frequent nighttime interruptions and shorter total sleep. Sleep deprivation is connected with far-reaching health repercussions that affect a person physically, psychologically, and emotionally, so it's no wonder that sleep apnea has been linked to a variety of health issues.Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of several types of cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure, heart attack, heart disease, and stroke, due to how it disrupts oxygen balance in the body.
If you experience signs of sleep apnea, you should consult a doctor. It is impossible to treat your sleep apnea until you understand the underlying causes. When required, your doctor may advise you to do an overnight sleep study to examine your sleep, including your breathing.When a person is diagnosed with OSA or CSA, therapy is frequently beneficial in improving sleep and lowering the risk of long-term health problems. A doctor who is familiar with a patient's condition is best placed to discuss the possible advantages and dangers of therapies and provide specific suggestions.Some cases of OSA can be resolved by making lifestyle changes like decreasing weight, eliminating sedative usage, and sleeping on your side. Another popular therapy is to use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or bi-level positive airway pressure (BiPAP) equipment at night. These devices force air via a mask and into the airway to keep it open during sleeping.
People with particular anatomical characteristics that cause mild OSA may benefit from mouthpieces that keep the jaw or tongue in a certain position. Surgery to remove tissue and enlarge the airway can also be explored, however, it is typically not the primary option. In patients who have this symptom, medications may be recommended to aid with daytime drowsiness.Treatment for CSA generally focuses on addressing the underlying disease that causes thermal breathing, such as a brain infection, heart failure, or altitude adjustment. Some individuals may benefit from CPAP or BiPAP devices, as well as supplementary oxygen.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which your airway becomes blocked during sleep. This causes you to stop breathing for short periods, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of times per night. The result: You wake up feeling tired and groggy, but not refreshed. This can make kids miss out on healthy, restful sleep. The signs and symptoms of OSA are similar to those for snoring, but they're more serious. They may be milder than with other causes of loud snoring such as obesity or alcohol use. But untreated OSA can cause long-term health issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, depression, memory loss, and even death.
Signs and symptoms of OSA include:
• Difficulty breathing while asleep or during sleep. This is called hypopneas, which are caused by partial airway obstruction. The most common type of apnea occurs when the muscles that normally keep your throat open relax too much. Other types of apnea can occur if you have a condition such as obesity, enlarged tonsils, nasal polyps, chronic sinusitis, or an underactive thyroid gland.
Snoring is a common problem that can be caused by many different factors. Some of the most common causes include:
Obstructive sleep apnea
Breathing through your mouth while sleeping, which leads to snoring and interrupted breathing during sleep. This condition occurs when there's an obstruction in the airway or soft tissue around it.
stopping breathing while asleep
I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea. I am a male in my mid-40s, and the symptoms are: snoring loudly at night, feeling tired during the day, daytime drowsiness, dry mouth/throat when awake, etc... The doctor said that it is not severe enough to warrant treatment yet. He also told me that if I stop smoking cigarettes, then he will consider prescribing something for me. Is this true?
Waking up gasping for breath
If you have sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend ways to keep an open airway. A breathing device such as a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine, or implant, could be included. It's a good idea to speak with your doctor. Other treatments are possible, depending on the type and severity of your sleep apnea.
A motivated student of Medicine & Surgery (MBBS) at R. G. Kar Medical College & Hospital, Kolkata, having a knack for reading and composing medical literature. When he's not writing content for MEDtalks, Swapnil is usually looking up the latest trends and innovations in Medicine.