Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs in all age groups and both sexes. It is commonly undiagnosed and 80% of patients don’t know they have it. Primarily, there are 2 forms of sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and Central sleep apnea (CSA).
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is more common among the two. It happens when the muscles in the back of your throat are too relaxed and block the airway, causing complete or partial obstruction. You essentially stop breathing repeatedly throughout the night. This signals your brain to partially wake up to tell your body to breathe, as you need to breathe to stay alive! This can cause you to wake up more than 100 times a night, depending on the severity of your sleep apnea. These awakenings may be too brief that you don’t remember it.
The severity of sleep apnea depends on the number of times you have interrupted breathing per hour:
- Mild OSA: 5-14 interruptions of breathing per hour
- Moderate OSA: 15-29 interruptions of breathing per hour
- Severe OSA: 30 or more interruptions of breathing per hour
These interruptions of breathing are often followed by gasping, choking, and snorting sounds which are the result of trying to take a deep breath to fight past obstruction so that you can breathe. Once the breath is taken, the brain returns to sleep. But these events may be subtle and may even be silent in certain people.
Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea (CSA) is different, and is more of a communication problem with the brain, rather than a mechanical problem with the airways. With CSA, your brain fails to signal the muscles that are supposedly regulating the breathing. CSA is less common, around 15% of the sleep apnea cases. For the rest of the blog, I will mainly focus on OSA. However, symptomatically speaking, they are similar disorders.
What can lead to Obstructive sleep apnea?
Let’s go over risk factors
Weight is a primary risk factor of OSA. Excess fats can contribute to blocking up your airways, making it harder for you to breathe as you sleep. However, 40% of people with sleep apnea are not overweight, so other risk factors may be the cause.
Lifestyle choices also contribute. Alcohol and other sedatives (sleeping pills) can relax your breathing muscles, which can contribute to blocking off your airways as you sleep.
Your physical features can also play a role: larger neck sizes, a small upper airway, a small jaw, a recessed chin, a large tongue, tonsils or uvula can all contribute and put you at risk for OSA.
Demographics and age play a role. OSA is more common in men and post-menopausal women. OSA prevalence also increases with age. After the age of 60, the risk increases dramatically.
Other medical conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma are also at risk for OSA.
If your family has a history of OSA, you are 4 times more likely to get the disorder yourself.
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Snoring – loud, disruptive and regular snoring is a sign that you may suffer from sleep apnea. However, not everyone who snores has obstructive sleep apnea.
Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep commonly noticed by a bed partner. This may or may not be followed by gasping or choking.
Sleep deprivation – people with sleep apnea tend to be sleep deprived because of the numerous breathing interruption throughout the night and subsequently waking up. Sleep deprivation can lead to numerous problems with cognitive function like learning difficulties and trouble with concentration and memory. It can also result to sexual dysfunction. Sleep deprivation can be catastrophic for your over-all well being leading to depression, irritability and mood problems.
Some lesser known symptoms include night sweats around the neck and upper chest, high frequency of nighttime urination, frequent morning headache, dry mouth and sore throat.
What are the consequences of sleep apnea?
OSA is associated with higher rates of stroke, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and atrial fibillation.
In children, OSA is associated with poor growth, developmental delays, and cognitive/behavioral problems. Excessively tired children often display attention deficit type symptoms instead of the typical adult signs of sleepiness.
Do you currently have Obstructive sleep apnea?
- Do you watch TV with your family and fall asleep as soon as you hit the couch? Do they say you snore loudly and gasp for breath?
- Has your partner left the bedroom because they can’t take the snore at night?
- Do you feel drowsy even though you think you are getting enough sleep at night?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea, just like millions out there.
So, what can you do about it?
If you or your partner think that you may be suffering from sleep apnea, contact us at Cebu Sleep Supplies to connect you to a board certified Sleep Medicine provider and expert in sleep apnea. The sleep doctor will do a full history to assess your risk of sleep apnea. This will be the first step to finding the appropriate means of diagnosis and treatment. After this, you are well on your way to a better nights sleep and healthier you.
Start improving the quality of your life from the comfort of your home.