Sleep Apnea - Causes, Symptoms, Risks, and Treatment

Apnea comes from the Greek prefix “a”, meaning "no", and the Greek word “pnoia”, meaning "breath". Sleep Apnea is a breathing disorder where someone stops breathing for 10 seconds or longer. In aggressive cases, a person with sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times in a single night. With each episode of Sleep Apnea, the brain eventually arouses the person briefly, allowing them to breathe again before the cycle continues.

Sleep Apnea is classified into 3 main types:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – When the soft tissue found in the back of the throat collapses, the airway becomes blocked. This is the most common type of sleep apnea.
  • Central Sleep Apnea – When the brain fails to signal the muscles to breath, even though the airway is not blocked.
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea – When the brain fails to send a signal to the muscles to breath and the soft tissue found in the back of the throat also collapses.

Sleep Apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders. When untreated, it can cause complications and high morbidity, but with the right treatment, you can once again expect a peaceful night’s sleep.

Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing can become very shallow or stop altogether while you are sleeping. These pauses in breath can occur several times throughout the night and are usually very short, with each lasting for about 10-20 seconds. Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleeping disorders and affects millions of people all over the world.

When left untreated, Sleep apnea can become severe and cause your breathing to stop several times throughout the a night. Each time the breathing stops, your brain arouses the body in order to resume normal breathing. This causes you to wake up several times during the night, reducing your quality of sleep drastically.

Even if you are not roused from your sleep, these repeated pauses in breathing lower the oxygen levels in your blood, keeping you from achieving a restful night’s sleep. Your sleep cycle is also deeply disturbed by sleep apnea, further reducing the quality of sleep that you need to feel healthy and rested.

Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are several different types of Sleep Apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea happens when the nasal passages gets blocked or become narrow. This can happen when the tissue at the back of your throat collapses with normal breathing usually resuming after a few seconds. A loud choking sound is often heard as the breathing resumes.

Central Sleep Apnea is another type of this disorder. In this condition the brain fails to signal the muscles in the lungs and the respiratory system to breathe. A third type of sleep apnea is Mixed Apnea; a combination of the obstructive and the central sleep apnea conditions.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

There are a number of different symptoms and signs that you might have sleep apnea. Some of them may include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Choking or gasping for air while sleeping
  • Dry mouth or sore throat
  • Moodiness or depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Frequent awakenings at night
  • Feeling unrefreshed in the morning

Sleep Apnea Risks

Though sleep apnea appears to be a relatively harmless sleeping disorder, it can posses certain risks. When left untreated, sleep apnea is known to cause memory problems and weight gain and people suffering from hypertension, diabetes and cardiovascular conditions sometimes find that their disorders worsen when accompanied by sleep apnea.

The poor quality of sleep due to sleep apnea can also have a serious effect on your focus and concentration. This lack of focus can lead lead to accidents, headaches, weight gain, impotency and even strokes.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

The treatment of sleep apnea focuses on returning your breathing patterns to normal while you sleep as well as eliminating snoring and daytime drowsiness. Medical problems associated with sleep apnea like hypertension and diabetes are also treated.

A therapy known as continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP, is often used to treat sleep apnea. The mask-like device delivers a steady stream of oxygen which prevents airway collapse which causes a pause in breathing. The compliant use of the CPAP enhances overall quality of sleep even after one night. Studies have shown that use of the CPAP can improve depression associate with sleep apnea.

Although some patients reportedly stop using the CPAP when their symptoms clear up, it is important to manage the condition and realize that CPAP is not a temporary therapy. It may be needed for ongoing care to reduce symptoms of sleep apnea. Talk with your doctor about other ways to manage your sleep apnea.

For more information about sleep apnea causes, symptoms, and treatment, please call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563.