What is Sleep Apnea ?

Sleep Apnea Risks and Symptoms

sleep ApneaThere are three types of sleep apnea—obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed apnea, which is a combination of the other two. If left untreated, the person who suffers from any form of this sleeping disorder may risk other severe health issues, such as weight gain, heart disease, memory issues and high blood pressure.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

The most common form of this disorder is obstructive sleep apnea. The throat muscles relax, preventing the sufferer from breathing properly while sleeping. As the muscles relax, the airway shuts down and prevents breathing, which lowers the level of blood oxygen.

The person who suffers from obstructive sleep apnea often briefly awakens in order to open his airway. Many people don’t remember awakening. Some people with obstructive sleep apnea have choking or gasping snores throughout the night.

There are some risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea. However, the existence or absence of any of the ones listed below is inconclusive:

  • Being overweight
  • Neck circumference of more than 17-1/2 inches
  • Hypertension
  • Narrow throat or airway (may be caused by enlarged tonsils)
  • Being a male
  • Aging
  • Alcohol or sedative use
  • Being a smoker

Central Sleep Apnea

Another form of the disorder is when the brain doesn’t send the correct signals to the muscles that control the person’s breathing. People with central sleep apnea, a less common form of the sleep disorder, are sometimes short of breath when they wake up.

The risk factors for central sleep apnea may or may not be present. These factors are only a guide:

  • Being a male
  • Heart condition such as congestive heart failure or atrial fibrillation
  • Brain tumor or history of stroke

Mixed Sleep Apnea

Mixed sleep apnea, also known as complex sleep apnea, is the combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Their airway is obstructed, and they have breathing rhythm issues.

Risk factors for mixed sleep apnea are the same as those for central sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms may include the following:

  • Sleepy during the day
  • Snoring that is disruptive and loud
  • Obvious lapses in breathing while sleeping
  • A dry mouth or sore throat when waking
  • Headache upon waking
  • Insomnia
  • Mood swings
  • Depression or despondency

Sleep Tests

Sleep specialists are likely to order one or more of the following sleep tests:

  • Nocturnal Polysomnography—monitors the lungs, heart, brain, arm and leg movement, breathing and oxygen levels while sleeping.
  • Portable Cardiorespiratory Test—more basic test to measure the flow of air and breathing patters, and it can be done at home.
  • Oximetry—monitors the blood oxygen level while the patient is sleeping.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

Most people will find relief with the most common treatments for sleep apnea:

  • CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure)—a machine that delivers air through a mask while the person sleeps.
  • Adjustable Airway Pressure Device—another device that can help deliver air while sleeping, often used if the person has trouble with the CPAP.
  • Oral Appliance—a device that is worn in the mouth to pull the chin forward and open the airway while sleeping.
  • Surgery—to remove the excess loose tissue that is vibrating and blocking the air passages.

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