7 Symptoms and Causes of Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleeping disorders characterized by frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. Statistics reveal that around 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep apnea. Globally, more than 100 million people have sleep apnea. Are you wondering if you are prone to this disorder? This article will guide you on the causes and symptoms of sleep apnea.
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Understanding Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA) are the two types of sleep disorders. The most known type of sleep apnea is OSA, which affects 10% to 30% of adults. Snoring is brought on by a narrowing or blockage of the airway at the rear of the throat.
This occurs because the air flows in an unusual pattern. The person awakens in response to the obstruction of airflow, contracts their throat muscles, and inhales deeply while making a sound similar to choking or snorting.
On the other hand, CSA blocks the flow of information between the brain and the breathing muscles.
This will cause an individual to experience shallow breathing and temporary pauses. Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, CSA has a low prevalence, with less than 1% of people suffering from central sleep apnea.
There is a third type of sleep apnea called treatment-emerged central or complex sleep apnea. It happens when an individual diagnosed with OSA becomes CSA after receiving treatment for OSA.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
When a person has sleep apnea, they stop breathing while sleeping. Apnea is a Greek word for “breathless.” Sleep apnea happens either due to the inability of air to pass through or because of the brain’s improper control of breathing.
Due to the lack of oxygen, you will wake up in time for you to resume your breathing. However, while this reaction will be the key to your survival, it will also interrupt your sleep cycle. As a result, you will not have the restful sleep you deserve after a hectic day in the office or school. Depending on whether you have obstructive sleep apnea or central sleep apnea, the causes of breathing disruption may vary.
The Cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea happens due to the back of the throat muscles relaxing. These muscles provide support to the soft palate, tonsils, tongue, side walls of the throat, and the uvula, which is the triangular-shaped tissue hanging in the soft palate.
Relaxing these muscles will result in the closing or narrowing of your airways. You cannot get sufficient air, which will lower your blood oxygen level. Your brain will sense that you are having difficulty breathing and will briefly wake you up to allow you to reopen your airway and breathe.
The Cause of Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea results from the brain failing to communicate with muscles that control breathing. If you are experiencing CSA, this is because part of your brain failed to correctly acknowledge the level of carbon dioxide in the body while sleeping. As a result, the individual will experience repeated slow and shallow breathing than normal.
Central sleep apnea usually happens due to the brain not sending signals to keep the functions of breathing-related muscles. It may also happen due to the following:
- Heart failure
- Damage in the nervous system, especially in the brainstem or parts of the spinal cord
- Reduced blood oxygen levels
- Initial treatment of obstructive sleep apnea with CPAP
- Nervous system conditions like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
Factors That Risk You of Sleep Apnea
Different factors can increase your risk of acquiring sleep apnea, which will vary for CSA and OSA.
For obstructive sleep apnea, the following are the risk factors:
- Sex. Men are more prone to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, especially in the early phases of maturity
- Age. People who are in their 60s or 70s are at a higher risk of obstructive sleep apnea
- Body weight. Studies have revealed an interconnection between a higher body mass index and a higher risk of OSA
- Head and neck anatomy. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people with larger tongues and shorter lower jaw
It will also be affected by factors such as sleeping position, family history of sleep apnea, alcohol and medication use, nasal congestion, and others.
For central sleep apnea, the risk factors may include the following:
- Use of certain drugs. Opioids and other prescription medicines can affect breathing and are associated with a higher risk of CSA
- Age. People who are more than 65 years old are at a greater risk of experiencing breathing disruptions
- Being at high altitude. If you live at a high altitude, you are more prone to CSA due to the decreased availability of oxygen
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea has various symptoms, which can be easier to detect and treat with Sleepwise than other conditions. It may include the following:
- You feel tired or exhausted even though you had a complete sleep the previous night
- You experience daytime sleepiness which often results in drowsiness while driving or working
- You exhibit mood swings which is a common symptom of sleep apnea
- There is a disruption in brain function, which often includes memory loss, difficulty concentrating, and other brain-related problems
- People with sleep apnea find themselves waking up in the middle of the night. This can be harder to notice because people tend to forget waking up or why they woke up. If they did, it would be because they had heartburn or they needed to go to the comfort room
- Another common symptom of sleep apnea is a pause in breathing which your spouse or partner can easily notice while you sleep
- Cheyne-Stokes breathing, or CSB, is common in people with CSA. This symptom is characterized by fast and deep breathing followed by shallow breathing. They will stop breathing for a few seconds and then repeat the process all over again
Consult Your Doctor Regularly
Just because you have these symptoms does not mean you have sleep apnea. Seek medical advice from your healthcare provider. They are the authorities when it comes to the best form of treatment for your condition. Read More A vaccine that can kill and prevent brain cancer has been developed.