What is sleep apnea?

sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing stops and starts more than once during sleep.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include daytime lethargy, boisterous wheezing, and disrupted sleep. 

What causes sleep apnea?

The automatic arrest of breathing can result either from a blocked airway or a signaling problem in the brain.

Many people with sleep apnea have the most common kind, which is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).

Sleep apnea because of a signaling disorder in the brain is known as Central Sleep apnea (CSA). 

The individual will stop breathing over and over all throughout sleep without any awareness that this is happening.

When the airway is opened or the breathing signal from the brain is received, the individual may grunt, take a full breath, or stir with sudden wheezing, coughing, or stifling. 

Untreated sleep apnea can interfere significantly with a person’s wellbeing. Two common outcomes are heart diseases and depression.

It can also leave an individual extremely fatigued throughout the day, which increases the risks of injury during driving or working.

What is sleep apnea?

Who Has Sleep Apnea? 

More than 18 million American adults suffer from sleep apnea.

It is extremely troublesome at present to gauge the predominance of youth OSA as a result of widely varying monitoring techniques, however, at least 2 to 3% of the population is likely to have OSA, with as high as 10 to 20%.

OSA happens in all age groups and both genders. 

Fast facts on sleep apnea

Here are some key facts on Sleep apnea: 

  • Around 1 of every 5 adults have mild side effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), while 1 of every 15 has moderate-to-extreme symptoms. 
  • Around 18 million Americans have this condition, yet just 20 percent have been diagnosed and treated. 
  • Menopausal and postmenopausal women have an increased risk of OSA. 
  • Sleep apnea is a risk factor for the development of hypertension 
  • While Sleep apnea is increasingly predominant in those 50 years or older, it can also affect individuals of any age group, including children.
What is sleep apnea?

How is sleep apnea treated?

In the event that you suspect you may have sleep apnea, contact your primary care physician.

Bring with you a record of your sleep, levels of fatigue for the duration of the day, and any other side effects you may be having.

If you live with another person, make sure to ask if they notice that you snore intensely, gag, heave, or stop breathing during sleep. 

Make sure to tell your doctor which other medications you are taking. Your physician might refer you to a sleep specialist who can recommend the best treatment course for you. 

One of the most widely recognized strategies used to diagnose sleep apnea is a sleep study, which may require a medium-term stay at a sleep community.

The Sleep study screens an assortment of events during Sleep including Sleep state, eye development, muscle movement, pulse, respiratory exertion, wind current, and blood oxygen levels.

This test is utilized both to analyze Sleep apnea and to decide its seriousness.

One of the treatment alternatives is CPAP treatment, where the air is pushed through a veil to keep the airway open during sleep. 

Sleep apnea is a typical disorder that can lower a person’s sense of wellbeing and lead to hazardous situations, for example, engine vehicle mishaps, trouble concentrating, discouragement, cardiovascular failure, and stroke. 

Contingent upon the reason and the degree of apnea, there are various techniques for treatment. The objective of treatment is to normalize breathing during sleep. 

Normalizing breathing can help in the following ways: 

  • It gets rid of daytime weakness. 
  • It diminishes the undesirable emotional wellness changes from apnea or absence of sleep. 
  • It helps with the cardiovascular changes brought about by the constant sleep disruption

What are lifestyle changes that people with sleep apnea can implement?

Lifestyle modifications are fundamental to normalizing breathing, and they are basic initial phases in treatment. 

They include: 

  • alcohol cessation
  • smoking cessation
  • weight loss
  • side sleeping
What is sleep apnea?

Other treatment choices include: 

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: This is the cutting-edge treatment for sleep apnea.

It keeps the airway open by gently giving a consistent stream of positive pressure air through a cover. 

Some people experience difficulty utilizing CPAP and stop the treatment before gaining any significant advantage.

Notwithstanding, there are numerous measures that can be taken to make the hardware more agreeable and the alteration time frame smooth.

The veil and its settings can be balanced, and adding moisture to the air as it moves through the cover can diminish nasal manifestations. 

Medical procedure: There are different surgeries for OSA that can help open the airway. 

Mandibular repositioning device (MRD): This is a handcrafted oral apparatus used for people with mild or moderate OSA.

This mouthpiece holds the jaw in a forward position during sleep to grow the space behind the tongue. This helps keep the upper airway open to prevent wheezing. 

Side effects of an MRD may include jaw or tooth pain, and potential exacerbation of the temporomandibular joint malady. 

Untreated Sleep apnea and its side effects can have serious results.

Any person with exorbitant daytime sleepiness or different manifestations of Sleep apnea should contact his or her primary care physician to get information on treatment. 

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

One of the most well-known symptoms of Sleep apnea is snoring.

An individual with Sleep apnea might be unaware of their symptoms, yet someone else may see that the sleeper stops breathing, unexpectedly pants, awakens, and afterward returns to sleep. 

The most common side effect of sleep apnea is daytime sleepiness because of sleep disruption during the night. 

What is sleep apnea?

Additional symptoms include:

  • restless sleep or insomnia
  • difficulty concentrating
  • loud snoring
  • waking up several times a night to urinate
  • awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  • morning headache
  • irritability
  • heartburn
  • decreased libido and erectile dysfunction

An individual is at a greater risk for developing sleep apnea if they have a large neck, which is usually 17 or more inches for men and larger than 15 inches for women. 

What causes sleep apnea?

Different components can lead to the blocking or breakdown of the airway: 

Muscular changes: When individuals Sleep, the muscles that keep the airway open unwind, alongside the tongue, making the airway limited.

Usually, this unwinding doesn’t stop the progression of air all through the lungs, however, in Sleep apnea, it can. 

Physical obstructions: Excess fat stores around the airway can confine the windpipe, and any air that presses past can cause the uproarious wheezing regularly associated with OSA. 

Brain function: In Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), the neurological controls for breathing are dysregulated, making the control and cadence of breathing breakdown.

CSA is typically connected with a basic ailment, for example, a stroke or cardiovascular event. 

At the point when the airway turns out to be totally obstructed, the wheezing stops and there is no relaxing for a 10-20 second timeframe or until the brain detects the apnea and signals the muscles to relax.

This interruption in breathing is known as apnea. 

Despite the fact that this happens multiple times for the duration of the night, the individual encountering the apnea is not aware of these disturbances. 

What are the risk factors for sleep apnea?

Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • supine (flat on back) sleeping
  • obesity
  • chronic sinusitis
  • large neck circumference
  • recent weight gain
  • menopause
  • large tonsils or adenoids
  • Down syndrome
  • smoking
  • family history of sleep apnea
  • recessed chin or a large overbite

What are the complications of sleep apnea?

Sleep disorders have additionally been related to various difficulties and different conditions. 

These include: 

  • motor vehicle accidents
  • impaired cognition and difficulty focusing
  • metabolic syndrome
  • mood changes
  • hypertension
  • stroke
  • glaucoma
  • memory troubles
  • chronic fatigue
  • decreased quality of life
  • increased risk of mortality
  • headaches
  • dry mouth or pharyngitis after sleeping with the mouth open

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Any individual who feels constantly drained or drowsy during the day should consult his or her primary care provider to get tested for sleep apnea. 

Common questions they might ask include:

  • What is your normal sleep schedule on weekdays and weekends?
  • Are you taking any drugs or natural supplements to help you sleep? 
  • How much sleep would you say you get every night
  • Has anybody disclosed to you that you snore? 
  • Do you ever wake up in a state of frenzy or shock consciousness? 
  • How do you feel when you wake up? 
  • Do you fall asleep effectively when sitting in front of the TV or Reading? 
  • Does anybody in your close family have a diagnosed sleep disorder? 
  • Describe your sleep environment. 

Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed using a test (nocturnal polysomnography) done at a medium-term sleep research facility.

This records brain waves, eye and leg movements, oxygen levels, airflow, and heart rhythm during sleep.

A doctor who has expertise in sleep disorders reviews the test results. 

For certain people, Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT) is possible instead of undergoing laboratory testing.

The quantity of apnea events that happen every hour indicates the severity of sleep apnea: 

  • Normal – 0-5 apnea episodes per hour.
  • Mild sleep – 5-15 apnea episodes per hour.
  • Moderate sleep– 16-30 apnea episodes per hour.
  • Severe sleep apnea– 31+ episodes per hour.

Coping with Sleep Apnea 

The most significant treatment for individuals with OSA is utilizing the CPAP during sleep. The medical advantages of this treatment can be huge, but only when used correctly.

On the off chance that you are having difficulty changing your CPAP or you’re encountering reactions of wearing the apparatus, converse with the specialist who recommended it and request help. 

Getting satisfactory sleep is basic to keeping up wellbeing in OSA patients. On the off chance that you have symptoms of insomnia such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up unrefreshed, converse with your primary care physician about treatment choices.

Remember that specific store-bought and solution tranquilizers may help OSA patients.

One special case is ramelteon, which has been used for mild to severe OSA patients and has been shown to help them relax.  

Frequently asked questions (FAQs) about sleep apnea:

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?

Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

-Waking up with a dry or sore throat

-Loud snoring

-Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation

-Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day

-Sleepiness while driving

-Morning headaches

-Restless sleep

-Forgetfulness, mood changes, and decreased sex drive 

Can sleep apnea be cured?

CPAP and oral appliances work well to treat sleep apnea, but they are not cures.

The only way to cure sleep apnea is to lose weight or have surgery to remove the excess tissue from the palate or throat. 

What is the main cause of sleep apnea?

The main cause of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is obesity, which is associated with soft tissue of the mouth and throat.

During sleep, when the throat muscles are relaxed, the excess tissue can block the airway. 

Want to learn more about sleep apnea? Try these recommended readings!

Relief from Snoring and Sleep Apnea: A step-by-step guide to restful sleep and better health through changing the way you breathe (No 1 in the BreatheAbility for Health series)

This book is a step-by-step guide to help you breathe better during sleep.

It is a must-have for those suffering from sleep apnea, specifically those who have trouble adjusting to a CPAP machine. 

References

Sleep Apnea. National Sleep Foundation. 2020 

Sleep Apnea. National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute. 2020 

Aura Des los Santos

Aura Des los Santos is a Clinical Psychologist with two masters degree in Education. One focused in Higher Educacion and the other in the research of Psychology of Education. Her experience is focused on working depression, anxiety and personal development. She frequently writes articles in the area of psychology, education, travel and general culture.