Sleep Apnea: Causes, symptoms, treatment and everything you need to know

Sleep apnea happens when someone has breathing difficulties while asleep.

Sleep apnea happens when someone has breathing difficulties while asleep. The condition is common among adults, especially men over 50 years old.

What you need to know:

  • Sleep apnea is a severe disorder that arises when someone has breathing difficulties in their sleep.
  • Sleep apnea can have many adverse effects on your health, including cognitive impairment and even death if left untreated.

It's the zombie apocalypse! Everyone is more tired than usual lately, and that's because of a lack of enough sleep.  Just kidding. Point is, it is important to get enough rest whenever you can because this helps you feel refreshed and keeps you alert throughout the day.

Sleep apnea is a condition that keeps you from having enough sleep. The condition is common among adults, especially men over 50 years old.

Sleep apnea happens when a person stops breathing while they sleep, which leads to an interruption in their deep sleep cycle. This often leaves them feeling exhausted when they wake up.

Sleep apnea overview

Sleep apnea is a condition that happens when people stop breathing during their sleep for long periods, sometimes more than 30 seconds at a time. While sleeping, the muscles and tissues in your throat relax and block your airway. As a result, you can begin snoring, choking, or gasping for breath until you awaken enough to resume normal breathing.

This cycle of interrupted breathing disrupts your sleep and leads to less restorative sleep overall.

There are two types of sleep apnea: Obstructive and central

Obstructive sleep apnea is when your airway becomes blocked, causing you to stop breathing for some time during the night. This is because the muscles and tissues in your throat relax and block your airway while you sleep, making it close up or narrower. When this happens, you will snore loudly, gasp for air, or make choking sounds until you wake up enough to resume normal breathing.

Central sleep apnea is less common and can happen when your brain doesn't send the proper signals to the muscles in the throat and chest which control your breathing during sleep. This is often caused by a disruption in the central nervous system.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

Snoring, fatigue, and restless sleeping are the most common symptoms while gasping or choking is a more severe sign of this disorder. In addition, they may experience dry mouth in the morning and cognitive impairment such as trouble concentrating.

Diagnosis

Sleep apnea can be diagnosed by a sleep study called nocturnal polysomnography, which monitors your breathing, brain activity, and oxygen levels while you sleep. This is the best way to diagnose this disorder because it tests for all types of sleep apnea, including central and obstructive.

Treatment

The first is lifestyle changes like losing weight or quitting smoking, which reduce the symptoms associated with this condition.

Another type of treatment for sleep apnea is nasal Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP). It delivers pressurized oxygen through a mask worn over the nose to keep your throat open while sleeping, so there's no pause in breathing during inhalation and exhalation. This treatment helps people fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night without disruptive pauses in their respiratory cycle.

The use of hypoglossal nerve stimulators is the third type of treatment for sleep apnea. These are small implants beneath the skin that stimulate hypoglossal nerves that control one side of the tongue. This nerve stimulation causes your throat muscles to contract, keeping your airway open so you can breathe normally without interruption or snoring.

Surgery may also be recommended to remove excess tissue in your throat. There's a chance that performing surgery alone won't cure your sleep apnea, but it may help. Although the surgery is effective for mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) cases, this procedure will not be as successful at resolving or improving symptoms if you have severe obstructive sleep apnea. The surgeon can remove your tonsils from above the soft palate muscles and trim down your soft palate and uvula.

Lastly, oral appliances such as mouth guards that you wear while you sleep can open up your airways and prevent them from closing or becoming blocked. These also hold the lower jaw slightly forward, helping to keep the tongue from falling back and blocking the airway.

Conclusion

Sleep apnea is a severe disorder that happens when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. It can have many adverse effects on your health, including cognitive impairment and even death if left untreated. However, treatments are available for sleep apnea which range from lifestyle changes to surgical procedures or oral appliances.

If you think you may be suffering from this condition, please consult your doctor or a sleep specialist who will diagnose it through nocturnal polysomnography testing. They'll also recommend the best treatment option for you based on the severity of your symptoms and what type of sleep apnea (central vs obstructive) you suffer from.


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