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Diseases & Conditions

Sleep Apnea

Sleep ApneaCausesDiagnosisHome RemediesRisk FactorsSymptomsTreatmentTypes

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that is characterized by repeated reduction or pause in breathing during sleep.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

The different types of sleep apnea are caused by different factors.

In the case of obstructive sleep apnea, the muscles that are in the backside of the throat relax to such an extent that they obstruct the airway and you stop breathing momentarily. This lowers the oxygen level in the blood and the brain sends a signal to wake you up and resume breathing. This period of awakening is typically so short that most people do not even remember it.

In the case of central sleep apnea, your brain does not send signals to muscles that control your breathing. It is likely that being short of breath wakes you up and you may have difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep. Central sleep apnea is most commonly caused by different types of heart diseases and even by a stroke.

In the case of complex sleep apnea, people have obstruction of the upper airway similar to those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. Additionally, they also have difficulty with maintaining the breathing cycle and there may be occasional lapses in the breathing cycle.

Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

You may be referred to a sleep disorder clinic by your doctor based on your signs and symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis of sleep apnea, a sleep specialist may use the following tests:

  • Nocturnal polysomnography
  • Portable monitoring devices

Home Remedies For Sleep Apnea

Home remedies for sleep apnea include:

  • Losing excess weight
  • Avoiding alcohol and certain medications like sleeping pills and tranquilizers
  • Sleeping on your side
  • Keeping nasal passages open using a nasal spray

Risk Factors of Sleep Apnea

Different types of sleep apnea come with different risk factors. For obstructive sleep apnea, the most common risk factors are:

  • Being male
  • Being older
  • Excess weight
  • Neck circumference
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Narrowed airway
  • Family history
  • Use of alcohol, tranquilizers or sedatives
  • Smoking
  • Prolonged sitting

For central sleep apnea, the most common risk factors are:

  • Being male
  • Being older
  • Brain tumor
  • Heart disorders
  • Stroke

For complex sleep apnea, the risk factors are similar to that of obstructive sleep apnea. However, these risk factors are significantly increased in those who have heart disorders.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The symptoms are obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea tend to be very similar, sometimes making it difficult to determine the right type of sleep apnea. However, the most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea include:

  • Insomnia (difficulty in staying asleep)
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during the day)
  • Morning headache
  • Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  • Loud snoring (more likely to be obstructive sleep apnea)
  • Wakening up abruptly while being short of breath (more likely to be central sleep apnea)
  • Wakening up with a dry mouth or sore throat

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea is likely to include:

  • Therapies
  • Surgery

Treatments for central sleep apnea and complex sleep apnea may include therapies like

  • Treatment for associated medical problems
  • Supplemental oxygen
  • Therapies
  • Surgeries

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two important types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: This type of sleep apnea is more common than the other. In this case, the throat muscles tend to relax too much and obstruct the passage of air.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: This is a rare form of sleep apnea in which there is a disruption of signals from the brain that control your breathing.

In addition to these two types of sleep apnea, some people suffer from complex sleep apnea, which combines the symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.