Do you know the underlying dangers of Sleep Apnea?
Everybody loves a short, well-deserved nap or a beautiful night’s sleep after a long day. Although snoring is a relatively common occurrence, it is indicative of sleep apnea if it is loud and features some dangerous symptoms. When you have sleep apnea, you have a dangerous condition that needs to be curbed with immediate effect.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that can lead to serious health problems, such as snoring, fatigue and heart problems. It can affect anyone, but it is dominant in older men that are overweight. The most common cause of sleep apnea is excessive weight and obesity.
What is sleep apnea?
Based on research, sleep apnea, also called sleep apnoea, is a sleep disorder in which there are consecutive pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep time. The interrupted sleep cycle usually repeats itself for about a hundred times while unconscious. When the tissues at the back of your throat vibrate, the person with sleep apnea experiences restlessness. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, Sleep apnea occurs in about 3% of normal weight individuals but affects over 20 % of obese people. There are types of sleep apnea namely:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
This is the most common sleep apnea. It takes place when there is a repetitive occurrence of partial or complete airway blockage during sleep. During this occurrence, your diaphragm and chest muscles work extra hard to open your airways.
In response to the airway obstruction, breathing resumes with loud gasps and sudden jerks of the body to struggle for air. The side effects of this occurrence can vary from poor sleep patterns, lack of oxygen flow, and heart issues. Proper diagnosis and treatment can avoid complications. In addition, the symptoms may not be easily noticeable, but they are:
- Daytime sleepiness or fatigue.
- Restlessness during sleep, frequent nighttime awakenings.
- Sudden awakenings with a sensation of gasping or choking.
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon awakening.
- Cognitive impairment, such as trouble concentrating, forgetfulness or irritability.
- Mood disturbances (depression or anxiety).
- Night sweats.
- Frequent nighttime urination.
- Sexual dysfunction.
- Central sleep apnea
However, in this case, the airway doesn’t become blocked, but the brain fails to tell the brain to breathe due to recurring issues in the respiratory control center. Central nervous system dysfunction takes place with people that have neuromuscular diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, heart, Lung, or kidney diseases. As a result, breathing becomes slower and features temporary pauses. Some symptoms that follow are:
- Sluggishness which others may mistake as laziness in the classroom
- Poor school performance
- Trouble swallowing
- Daytime mouth breathing
- Inward movement of the rib cage when inhaling
- Excessive sweating at night
- Unusual sleeping positions, like sleeping on the hands and knees, or with the neck hyper-extended
- Learning and behavioral disorders
An addition is Complex sleep apnea syndrome, which doctors refer to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea because it is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea present in the body. In patients with complex sleep apnea syndrome, breathing problems persist even after the airway obstruction is addressed and treated, which means something besides the collapsing throat muscles are also contributing to the apnea. Due to the fatality of the situation, doctors recommend immediate treatment.
Causes of sleep apnea
Various factors can contribute to the blocking or collapse of the airway. They include the following:
- lax muscles and other tissues in the mouth and throat
- nasal congestion
- thickened tissues and additional fat stores around the airway
- an underlying neurological problem
These can result from:
- Genetic factors
- cold and allergies.
- heart or kidney failure.
- Thyroid problems
- large or swollen tonsils.
Infants born preterm may have sleep apnea, but this usually resolves with age.
What raises the risk of having obstructive sleep apnea?
- Age: As you get older, normal changes in how your brain controls breathing during sleep may raise your risk of sleep apnea.
- Family history and genetics: Your genes can affect how your brain controls your breathing during sleep. Genetic conditions such as congenital central hypoventilation syndrome can raise your risk.
- Lifestyle habits: Drinking alcohol and smoking can affect how your brain controls sleep or the muscles involved in breathing.
- Opioid use: Opioid use disorder or long-term use of prescribed opioid-based pain medicines can cause problems with how your brain controls sleep.
- Health conditions: Some conditions that affect how your brain controls your airway and chest muscles can raise your risk. These include heart failure, stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and myasthenia gravis. Also, your hormone levels can affect how your brain controls your breathing.
- Premature birth: Babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have a higher risk of breathing problems during sleep. In most cases, the risk gets lower as the baby gets older.
What raises the risk of having central sleep apnea?
- Age: Sleep apnea can occur at any age, but your risk increases as you get older. As you age, fatty tissue can build up in your neck and the tongue and raise your risk of sleep apnea.
- Endocrine disorders, or changes in your hormone levels: Your hormone levels can affect the size and shape of your face, tongue, and airway. People who have low levels of Thyroid hormones or high levels of insulin or growth hormone have a higher risk of sleep apnea.
- Family history and genetics: Sleep apnea can be inherited. Your genes help determine the size and shape of your skull, face, and upper airway. Also, your genes can raise your risk of other health conditions that can lead to sleep apnea, such as cleft lip and cleft palate.
- Down syndrome.
- Heart or kidney failure: These conditions can cause fluid to build up in your neck, which can block your upper airway.
- Large tonsils and a thick neck: These features may cause sleep apnea because they narrow your upper airway. Also, having a large tongue and your tongue’s position in your mouth can make it easier for your tongue to block your airway while you sleep.
- Lifestyle habits: Drinking alcohol and smoking can raise your risk of sleep apnea. Alcohol can make the muscles of your mouth and throat relax, which may close your upper airway. Smoking can cause inflammation in your upper airway, which affects breathing.
- Obesity: This condition is a common cause of sleep apnea. People with this condition can have increased fat deposits in their necks that can block the upper airway. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent or treat sleep apnea caused by obesity.
- Sex: Sleep apnea is more common in men than women.
Treatment aids to normalize your breathing while sleeping and any other underlying issues.
- Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle adjustments are essential when normalizing breathing and help the healing process. Some are:
- following a heart-healthy diet
- developing healthy sleeping habits
- limiting alcohol consumption
- Desist from smoking
- managing weight
- Sleeping on the side
- Improve sleeping hygiene
- Medications: Depending on the severity of your condition, you would need your doctor to prescribe the right set of medications for you to prevent complications. Some possibilities are acetazolamide, zolpidem and triazolam. Visit your health provider.
- Weight Management: In some cases weight loss can help improve or eliminate your sleep apnea symptoms if you are overweight or obese. Overweight people often have thick necks with extra tissue in the throat that may block the airway. There is no guarantee that losing weight will eliminate your sleep apnea, though it may help.
- Other treatment options is surgery, continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP), and Mandibular repositioning device (MRP)
Sleep apnea can cause short-term sleep deprivation, which can affect mood as well as your safety at work and while driving. It’s also strongly linked to life-threatening chronic conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke,Type 2 diabetes, and depression. Therefore, it is important to visit your doctor and treat as soon as possible once symptoms are noticed.