Do you often wake up feeling fatigued instead of rejuvenated like everybody else?
It can be frustrating that an activity that’s supposed to help you get to rest and re-energize is responsible for getting you even more tired. This symptom and a few others result from a common sleeping disorder known as sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that millions of people worldwide suffer from. Even though it’s common, most people are unaware of its negative impact on the victim’s health.
This short but comprehensive guide will delve into sleep apnea and its symptoms and offer effective management strategies. Understanding this disorder is key to restoring sleep control and improving health.
What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that makes an individual experience repeated pauses in their breath while sleeping. The pauses usually last seconds or minutes and are reported by someone next to the patient.
Types of Sleep Apnea
There are two types of this disorder, central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is common and occurs when the breathing airway is entirely or partially blocked during sleep. What blocks the airway is the muscles of the throat when they relax.
Central sleep apnea (CSA): CSA is the less common type and is quite different from OSA. With central sleep apnea, the brain cannot send the correct signals to muscles that help control breathing for a few seconds to minutes, leading to pauses.
Causes and Risk Factors
The two sleep apnea types also have different causes and risk factors. However, some of the risks overlap.
Cause of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
OSA, the common type, is majorly due to anatomical and physiological factors.
As stated earlier, this type of sleep apnea occurs because of airflow obstruction by the relaxed throat muscles. These muscles offer support for the uvula, the soft palate, the tongue, the tonsils, and the walls of the throat.
When the throat muscles relax, they force the airway to narrow when you breathe, limiting the oxygen supply to your blood. Meanwhile, your brain notices you are struggling to breathe and therefore wakes you up so that you can reopen the airway. Most of the time, the awakening is brief and can’t be remembered.
Individuals with this condition often gasp, snort, or choke multiple times every hour of sleep.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Risk Factors
Several factors increase the suffering from OSA, and some of them include the following:
- Obesity: Excessive weight pressures the windpipe and narrows its circumference. Also, fat deposits in the airway can obstruct airflow.
- Thicker necks: A person with a thick neck might have narrow airways that do not allow good airflow
- Family history: Members of your family in the past have suffered from the disorder
- Nasal congestion: Maybe due to allergic reactions or anatomical problems.
Cause of Central Sleep Apnea
Under normal conditions, the brain is responsible for all the breathing. To manage your breathing, the brain sends signals to the muscles related to breathing, and they interpret the signals correctly by aiding in letting the air in and out of the body, even while you’re asleep.
However, in an individual with CSA, their brain fails to send any signals to the breathing muscles to keep them functioning properly. This happens periodically while asleep but for brief moments. During these moments, the system of the individual makes no effort toward breathing.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) Risk Factors
- Heart disorders: They include congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction (heart attack), cardiac arrhythmias, stroke, cardiac surgery
- Being of male gender: More men than women are diagnosed with central sleep apnea.
- Being older: CAS is likely to affect middle-aged individuals and older people.
Effects and Complications of Sleep Apnea
Being a disorder, sleep apnea has complications that make the patient’s life challenging and risky.
Some of the effects and complications sleep apnea causes include the following:
Lowers the Sleep Quality
A person with sleep apnea often experiences low-quality sleep that does not give the body the rest it needs. This is because of the multiple disruptions the sleep has.
Lack of good restorative deep sleep makes an individual wake up with fatigue that eventually impairs their cognitive function during the day.
Long-Term Health Risks:
An individual with severe sleep apnea risks developing serious long-term health conditions. The periodic lack of enough oxygen in the airways can lead to health problems like stroke and hypertension. Sleep apnea is also linked to mental issues like anxiety and depression.
Managing Sleep Apnea
Several approaches can be taken to manage sleep apnea. However, the type of approach will depend on the kind of sleep apnea the patient has been diagnosed with.
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is one of the most recommended forms of sleep apnea treatment because it’s highly effective.
CPAP involves introducing air that’s pressurized into the nose or mouth of the patient when they sleep. This is done via special gas-like equipment worn by the patient.
If recommended to use CPAP by your doctor, ensure that you hire a CPAP machine from CPAP Direct to get a better deal and the support you might need.
Also, remember to follow the best practices and doctor’s instructions while treating the sleeping disorder using CPAP.
Changing lifestyle for the better can help manage sleep apnea symptoms. Following a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly helps manage excess weight, contributing to sleep apnea. Other healthy habits include sleeping in a sleep-friendly environment (clean, spacious, and quiet) and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule to help improve sleep quality.
Some patients have mild sleep apnea and may not need CPAP, while others can’t stand CPAP. In such instances, oral appliances are used as a substitute for CPAP.
There are mainly two types of appliances: one that snaps onto the teeth to help the jaw move forward so the airway can remain open, and the other one that works by holding the tongue in place so it doesn’t collapse backward and block the airway.
Surgery may sometimes be considered, mainly when anatomical abnormalities contribute to sleep apnea. Procedures such as uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP), maxillomandibular advancement (MMA), and genioglossus advancement (GA) aim to correct structural issues and improve airflow.
Have a Good Sleep
Sleep apnea is not healthy and can end up leading to fatal consequences. It’s, therefore, best to keep an eye on the disorder’s symptoms and seek professional assistance immediately. Also, ensure that you maintain best practices/habits, including sleeping positions that will enable you to sleep well.