Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep-related breathing disorder. It causes breathing to stop and start repeatedly during sleep.
There are several types of obstructive sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax during sleep and block the airway. A telltale sign of obstructive sleep apnea is snoring.
Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is available. One method is to use a device that uses positive pressure to keep the airway open while you sleep. Another treatment is a pacifier, which pushes your jaw forward while you sleep. Surgery may also be an option.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
Signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- snoring loudly
- Noticeable episodes of obstructive sleep apnea
- Sudden awakening from wheezing or choking
- Waking up with a dry mouth or a sore throat
- morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Mood changes, such as depression or irritability
- decreased libido
When do you visit the doctor?
Consult a medical professional if you have or notice any of the following signs in your partner:
- Snoring too loudly, interfering with your sleep or the sleep of others
- Waking up with gasping or choking
- Sleep Apnea
- Severe daytime dizziness that leads to falling asleep at work, watching TV, or even driving
Snoring doesn’t necessarily indicate a potential danger, and not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
Consult your doctor if you snore a lot, especially during periods of silence. In obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is usually louder when sleeping on your back, and less often if you’re lying on your side.
Talk to your doctor about any sleep problems that are causing you chronic fatigue, drowsiness and irritability. Severe daytime dizziness can be caused by other conditions, such as narcolepsy.
Causes of sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much to breathe properly. These muscles support structures such as the back of the mouth (the soft palate) and the triangular tissues that hang from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, and the tongue.
When the muscles relax, the airway narrows or closes on inhalation, impeding breathing for 10 seconds or more. This can lower the level of oxygen in the blood and cause a buildup of carbon dioxide.
Your brain feels like you can’t breathe and immediately wakes you from sleep so you can reopen your airways. These awakenings are usually too short to remember.
When you take a deep breath or two, the shortness of breath may go away quickly. You may snore, choke or gasp.
This pattern may repeat 5 to 30 or more times per hour during the night. These disturbances impair your ability to enter deeper, more restful sleep stages, and you may feel sleepy while awake.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may not realize that their sleep is interrupted. Many people with this type of sleep apnea do not realize that they are not getting enough sleep through the night.
Risk factors – causes of sleep apnea
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, there are certain factors that put you at greater risk, including:
- Overweight. Most, but not all, people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Fat deposits around the upper airways can obstruct breathing. Obesity-related disorders, such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome, can cause obstructive sleep apnea.
- aging The risk of obstructive sleep apnea increases with age but appears to stabilize after the 60s and 70s.
- narrowing of the airway The airway may be inherited naturally. Or the tonsils or adenoids may swell to block the airway.
- High blood pressure (hypertension). Obstructive sleep apnea is very common in people with high blood pressure.
- Chronic nasal congestion. Regardless of the cause, obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people with chronic nocturnal nasal congestion. This may be due to a narrowed airway.
- smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.
- diabetic. Obstructive sleep apnea may be more common in people with diabetes.
- the gender of the person. In general, men are two to three times more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea than women who have not yet reached menopause. Increased incidence of obstructive sleep apnea in postmenopausal women.
- Has a family history of obstructive sleep apnea. Having a family member with obstructive sleep apnea may increase your risk of developing this condition.
- asthma. Research has found an association between asthma and the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
Complications of sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a serious condition. Complications may include:
- Fatigue and drowsiness during the day. Because of poor restorative sleep at night, people with obstructive sleep apnea often feel very sleepy, tired, and restless during the day. They may have difficulty concentrating and may fall asleep while working, watching TV, or even driving. It can make them more vulnerable to work related accidents. Children and young adults with obstructive sleep apnea may do poorly in school and have problems with concentration or behavior.
- Cardiovascular problems. The sudden drop in oxygen levels that occurs during obstructive sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and strain your cardiovascular system. Many people with obstructive sleep apnea have high blood pressure, which increases the risk of heart disease. The more severe your obstructive sleep apnea, the greater your risk of coronary artery disease, heart disease, heart failure and stroke.Obstructive sleep apnea also increases the chance of an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) leading to low blood pressure. Repeated episodes of arrhythmia can lead to sudden death if there is an underlying heart condition.
- Complications with medications and surgery. Obstructive sleep apnea can cause problems with some medications and general anesthesia. These medications, such as sedatives, narcotic analgesics and general anesthetics, relax the upper airways. What may worsen obstructive sleep apnea. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, major surgery, especially after sedation and lying on your back, may make your breathing problems worse. People with obstructive sleep apnea may be more likely to have complications after surgery.Before having any surgery, be sure to tell your doctor if you have obstructive sleep apnea or any related symptoms. Your doctor may think you should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea before surgery.
- eye problems Several studies have found a link between obstructive sleep apnea and eye diseases such as glaucoma. Eye complications can usually be treated.
- Deprive the partner of sleep. Loud snoring can deprive others around you of adequate rest and ultimately damage your relationships. Some partners may prefer to sleep in another room.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or depression, and the need to urinate a lot at night.
Obstructive sleep apnea may be a risk factor for COVID-19. People with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to have severe COVID-19 and require hospitalization than people without obstructive sleep apnea.
Read also: 10 daily habits that contribute to hair loss