Sleep apnea is a disorder which is identified by interrupted breathing while sleeping. It happens due to the reduction of airflow into the nasal path. Sleep apnea is a common breathing problem where sleep is disrupted due to reduction in the flow of oxygen level to the blood. The obstruction of airflow causes snoring which creates a sound similar to choking. Sleep apnea is common in males and people above the age of 65 years. It’s also known to affect smokers and overweight people. There are primarily three kinds of sleep apneas, namely, mixed/complex sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, and central sleep apnea.
Effects of Sleep Apnea
The person who has sleep apnea often snores while sleeping. In the daytime, the person may suffer from bouts of sleepiness. Interestingly, a person suffering from sleep apnea does not realize that he or she is suffering from the disorder. The person will take pauses while breathing and have a dry mouth on waking up. He or she may visit the washroom frequently during the night and may feel out of breath at times. Sleep apnea also causes moodiness and depression, and it may even lead to nighttime awakening. If untreated, sleep apnea can result in poor night sleep. It reduces the amount of productive sleep which is required for a person to feel energetic and mentally sharp after sleep.
To diagnose the condition, clinical symptoms are examined and a sleep study is conducted in which Respiratory Disturbance Index (RDI) and Apnea-Hypopnea Index (AHI) is calculated. In normal condition, there should be a 10-second gap between two breaths. Additionally, blood oxygen de-saturation should not be less than 3 to 4 percent. Oximetry is the method used to study the sleeping pattern of patients suffering from sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is the condition in which the brain sends a signal to make a muscular movement to enable the body to get breath. However, the air is obstructed and the person does not get enough air. It happens due to soft tissue presence in the back of throat which causes blockage of airway. Mild apnea is even found in people who suffer from the infections of respiratory organs. In the chronic stage, the person fails to get adequate sleep and the person’s blood oxygen level is low.
Central Sleep Apnea: In central sleep apnea, the person fails to get breath and the brain does not provide a signal to enable muscular movement to take breath. The carbon dioxide level in blood and the neurological mechanisms fail to react on time. It results in the condition when the whole breathing process moves between hyperpnea and apnea while sleeping and sometimes, it also happens when the person is awake. Central sleep apnea can occur due to some other illness or medical problems. Hence, the person should be cautious.
Mixed/Complex Sleep Apnea: Mixed or complex sleep apnea is the condition in which both obstructive sleep apnea and central apnea is found. In case of severe and longstanding obstructive sleep apnea, the person can suffer from central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Continuous Positive Airflow Pressure (CPAP) is the treatment used to provide relief for sleep apnea. In the treatment, the patient puts on a plastic facial mask connected to a tiny machine which generates air pressure for keeping the air passage open. Surgery is another method used for the treatment of sleep apnea. During the surgery, the interior airway space is increased and the oxygen saturation in the blood is also increased.
Tips to Prevent Sleep Apnea
- A patient suffering from obesity should try to reduce weight to prevent sleep apnea symptoms.
- Avoid the intake of sleeping pills, alcohol, and sedatives because these substances cause the throat muscles to relax, resulting in sleep apnea.
- Exercises of throat also help to reduce the symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Sleep on the side instead of sleeping on the back to prevent snoring.
- Elevate the head and use nasal dilator or breathing strips to open the nasal passages before going to sleep.
To find out more about sleep apnea, check out the following links:
- Sleep Apnea Information Page
- An Underdiagnosed Disorder (PDF)
- When Sleep Apnea Affects Children
- Effects of Sleep Apnea
- Lessening the Effects of Sleep Apnea
- Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Recognizing the Dangers of Sleep Apnea (PDF)
- Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea (PDF)
- Positive Airway Pressure on Sleep Apnea (PDF)
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Overview of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- More Information on Obstructive Sleep Apnea (PDF)
- Central Sleep Apnea
- Information on Central Sleep Apnea
- What is Central Sleep Apnea?
- Complex Sleep Apnea
- Is Complex Sleep Apnea a Unique Clinical Syndrome? (PDF)
- Treatments & Drugs
- Effectiveness of Nasal CPAP
- How to Beat Sleep Apnea?
- Sleep Apnea Surgery
- American Sleep Apnea Association