Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that happens when any person’s breathing and respiratory function is interrupted during sleep. People who are not aware of this illness and live with untreated sleep apnea, stop breathing for several times during their sleep, which sometimes runs to hundreds of times.
When this happens the brain and the rest of the sleep apnea patient’s body do not receive adequate oxygen during their sleep.
Sleep apnea can be classified into two types:
OSA (Obstructive Sleep Apnea): This is caused by blockage in the airway of the sleep apnea patient, and is more common of the two types. This symptom happens when the soft tissue at the back of the patient’s throat collapses during the sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea: This is a more serious kind of sleep apnea, where the airway is not blocked like in OSA, but the patient’s brain fails to signal the respiratory muscles to breath. This occurs because of instability in the respiratory control center of the patient suffering from this disease.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone, any person of any age, even children. But people who are more at a risk of this disease are:
Sleep apnea is a condition in which sleep is disturbed due to a sudden start and stop breathing. This effect of improper breathing during sleep interrupts with oxygen supply to the brain as well as to rest parts of the body. Signs like loud snoring, sore throat, morning headache, sensation of choking upon waking or reason of waking, disturbed mood due to improper sleep cycles, sleepiness type feeling during day, irritation, lack of attention, concentration like condition while awake, sexual problems (erectile dysfunction), increased frequency of urine urgency, etc. This condition is mainly affecting people from male gender aged above 40 years, who are overweight or having a disease associated with respiratory system.
It is difficult to highlight any one cause of sleep apnea but for common form of it, obstructive sleep apnea, it is found that obesity or excessive body weight is main cause. The changes in muscle functioning that keep the airway open during sleep are relaxing along with tongue may narrow the airway and breathing is disturbed. Deposition of fat on and around the tissue of the neck region can also restrict the flow of oxygen. People with large sized tongue, tonsils or uvula, recessed chin, the large size of neck and overbite like conditions are more susceptible to this type of sleep disorders.
Patients experiencing primary signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are consulting doctors who first tries to find out the reason behind the condition. Sleep apnea is mainly diagnosed with the help of conducting sleep study in a sleep center laboratory where a multicomponent test is performed. With the test result of a polysomnogram, doctors can find out whether it is a sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder. There may be chances of conducting tests like an electroencephalogram (EEG), electromyogram (EMG), electrooculogram (EOG), electrocardiogram (ECG), nasal airflow sensor, and snore microphone as it can help in detecting sleep apnea.
There are two forms of sleep apnea- Obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, from which obstructive sleep apnea is more commonly observed in populations. At the first level, it is advised to consult doctor, record the levels of fatigue, sleep durations, breathing issues and then suggests treatment. Lifestyle changes like reduced consumption of alcohol and smoking, weight loss are recommended so that it helps in normalizing the breathing of patients. For obstructive sleep apnea, mainly continuous positive airway pressure device (CPAP) is used for treatment as it is a mask-like device that keeps the flow of air continuous even during sleep. The other options like the widening of obstructive tissue through surgery and mandibular repositioning device are also used by medical professionals for treating sleep apnea.
As this condition is disturbing sleep as well as respiration, it may lead to many difficult health complications. This condition may raise high blood pressure, other cardiovascular disease, problems associated with mood and memory, type-2 diabetes, weight gain, asthma and acid reflux like diseases. Patients suffering from sleep apnea have a high level of fatigue and daytime sleep which may cause road accidents and depression. Other complications include problems in focusing due to impaired cognition, decreased quality of life, eye problems like glaucoma, etc.
It is known that sleep apnea is disturbing not only the brain but the other parts of the body too. Blockage or collapse condition of airways if left untreated then it may cause long term health complications. The process of consolidation of memories gets affected as sleep helps in it. Generally, people experience freshness after a sound sleep and patients of sleep apnea are feeling more sleepiness during day time. Depression and mental confusion are also linked with sleep apnea whereas asthma and breathing difficulties are respiratory conditions due to sleep apnea. High levels of sugar, cholesterol and fatigue, hypertension, irregular heart rhythm, heart failure as well as decreased level of oxygen are side effects of sleep apnea.
To fight against this condition, a primary goal set by the healthcare professionals is to reduce the weight. With the weight loss programs, people can maintain their healthy weights as well as airways also get clear if blocked due to fat deposition or muscle relaxations. It is advised to not sleep on the back and sleep by altering the body position. Other remedies include blowing air in balloons as throat exercise, performing yoga asanas, consuming a teaspoon of honey before sleep, raising the level of head of the bed, etc. Use of humidifiers and oral appliances are also sometimes recommended in sleep apnea.