Types, Causes, and Treatment of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea refers to a sleep disorder where an individual’s breathing is obstructed while they sleep. The breathing momentarily stops, then starts again, and the process continues. Fortunately, modern medicine and technological breakthroughs have led to the development of various sleep apnea treatment methods.
Several health issues are associated with untreated sleep apnea. They include hypertension, stroke, and cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart muscles). Other patients suffer heart failure and heart attacks, and even diabetes.
Sleep apnea is also known to cause job impairment, job-related accidents, vehicle crashes, and poor school performance for children and adolescents.
Types of Sleep Apnea
The main types of sleep apnea include:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea – It’s the most common of the known types. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs in a recurrent episode of total or partial upper airway blockage. When experiencing an apneic episode, the diaphragm and chest muscles overwork to maintain the pressure needed to open the airway.
When it opens, the victim gets a loud pant or body jerk. Such continuous episodes can lead to low oxygen flow to vital organs, disrupt a sound sleep, and even alter the heart rhythms.
- Central Sleep Apnea – For this type, the airway is not blocked. Instead, the brain does not send proper signals to muscles that control breathing. This is due to instability in the respiratory control center. It’s related to the central nervous system functions.
- Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome – It’s also referred to as treatment-emergent sleep apnea. This type occurs when one suffers from both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Get to the sleep apnea center near you for prompt treatment.
Who Can Get Sleep Apnea?
About 25% of men and 10% of women get sleep apnea. It can affect people of all ages, including children and toddlers. People over age 50 and overweight are the most affected.
People with obstructive sleep apnea exhibit similar symptoms. They include excessive weight, wide necks, structural anomalies that reduce the diameter of the upper air route like nasal obstruction, lowly suspended soft palate, larger tonsils, and small jaws with overbites.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
It occurs when muscles at the back of your throat support the soft palate, tonsils, uvula, and tongue relax. When they relax, the airway narrows or closes when inhaling. There is not enough air getting to the lungs, which lowers the amount of oxygen in the blood.
The brain senses your inability to breathe, then rouses you from sleep so you can open the airway. The awakening, which comes as a gasp/snort/choking, is usually so brief that you never remember it.
The pattern can be repetitive up to 30 times in an hour, preventing you from reaching the deep, relaxing phases of sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea
It’s the less common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the brain fails to send the right signals to the breathing muscles. It means that within your sleep, you make not breathing effort. You might wake up with shortness of breath or have a hard time maintaining sleep.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Before the sleep apnea treatment, your doctor evaluates your signs and symptoms and your sleep history. This can be provided by someone who shared a bed with you or someone from your household.
You will most likely be referred to a sleep center near you.
You can treat mild sleep apnea from home by changing various lifestyles. Taylor Made Sleep doctors may recommend the following:
- Lose weight – Half of all people with sleep apnea are overweight or obese. Slimming down some extra weight, even by a few pounds, can improve the symptoms.
- Avoid Alcohol and Sleeping pills – These decrease the muscle tone at the back of the throat, interfering with airflow.
- Change sleep positions – Symptoms will be less intense if you avoid sleeping on your back.
- Quit Smoking – Smoking increases the upper airway’s inflammation, which increases snoring and makes sleep apnea worse.
- Manage allergies – Nasal allergies cause airway tissues to swell, narrowing them. This makes it harder to breathe. Ask your doctor how to handle them.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) – With CPAP treatment, you wear a mask over your nose while sleeping. The mask delivers constant airflow from a CPAP machine directly into your nose. The airflow keeps your airways open, so you breathe properly while you sleep. A similar treatment to CPAP is the Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)
Oral Appliances – They include dental devices like mouthguards that keep your airways open during sleep. These devices can only be designed by expertise dentists trained for sleep apnea.
Surgery – Surgery is needed if your condition causes extreme narrowing of the throat. Other conditions that require surgery include large nostrils, a smaller lower jaw with overbites, or if you have a deviated nasal septum.