Sleep Apnea - Types, Symptoms & Treatment

The word “apnea” comes from the Greek word for “breathless.” Sleep Apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. This interruption of breathing can lead to a variety of negative health consequences, such as decreased oxygen levels, disrupted sleep, and cardiovascular problems. Also, if you snore loudly and feel tired even after a full night's sleep, you might have sleep apnea. 

Sleep Apnea can happen to anyone ranging from infants and children to adults. It is more common in People of Colour, Hispanic or of Asian descent.  

The most common types of sleep apnea are: 

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the most common form of sleep apnea that occurs when the throat muscles relax & block the air flow to the lungs. 
  • Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This occurs when the brain doesn't send proper signals to the breath controlling muscles. 
  • Treatment-Emergent Central Sleep Apnea: Also known as Complex Sleep Apnea, happens when someone has OSA which is diagnosed with a proper sleep study and while receiving therapy for the same, converts to CSA. 

Causes of sleep apnea: Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep. This can be caused by a variety of factors, like: 

  • Obesity: Excess weight can lead to the accumulation of fat around your airway, making it more difficult to keep it open and breathe properly. 
  • Narrow airway: Some people naturally have a narrower airway, which can make it more difficult to keep it open during sleep. 
  • Age: As we get older, the muscles in the throat tend to weaken, making it more difficult to keep the airway open and to breathe. 
  • Gender: Men are 2 to 3 times more likely to have sleep apnea than are women. However, women increase their risk if they're overweight or if they've gone through menopause. 
  • Nasal Congestion: If you have a problem breathing through your nose, whether because of an anatomical reason or any allergies, you’re more likely to develop Sleep Apnea.  
  • Medical Conditions: Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, Liver dysfunctions and type 2 diabetes are some of the conditions that may increase the risk of sleep apnea. 

Symptoms: The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are snoring, but there are many other signs that indicate the presence of the disorder. The symptoms include:  

  • Gasping or Choking in Sleep
  • Excessive Daytime Drowsiness 
  • Irritability 
  • Depression 
  • Lack of Concentration 
  • Severe Morning Headache 

And many more... 

This condition might sound severe and scary, but it is curable at all its stages. There are many treatments for treating Sleep Apnea depending on the severity of the patient’s condition. These treatments include:  

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy: This therapy involves wearing a mask during sleep which delivers steady air stream to keep the airway open. 
  • Oral Appliances: There are certain devices that fit in the mouth and help keep the airway open throughout the night for better sleep. 
  • Surgery: In some (Extreme) cases, surgeries are recommended by the doctors for removing excess tissues or to correct structural abnormalities in the airway. 
  • Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bed, and sleeping on your side can all help to reduce the severity of sleep apnea.  

In conclusion, sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can have a negative impact on overall health and well-being. If you suspect that you or a loved one may be suffering from sleep apnea, it is important to seek medical attention and explore treatment options to help manage the condition at the earliest. 

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