Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which a person stops breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night, and often for a minute or longer. A sufferer of sleep apnea has frequent episodes (up to 400-500 per night) in which he or she stops breathing. Sleep apnea warning signs include excessive snoring, choking, or gasping during sleep. There are three different types of sleep apnea; obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea (a combination of the two).

The Greek word “apnea” literally means “without breath.” With each apnea event, the sleeper’s brain briefly arouses in order to resume breathing, causing sleep to be extremely fragmented and of poor quality. Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can cause many health problems if left untreated. Sleep apnea is very common, as common as adult diabetes, and affects more than twelve million Americans, according to the National Institute of Health.

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs when the airway remains open, but the brain’s nerve signals fail to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations. CSA occurs during sleep because when a person is awake, breathing is usually stimulated by other signals, including conscious awareness of breathing rate.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea. It is thought that about 1-10% of adults are affected by OSA; only about one tenth of that number have CSA. OSA is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes off during sleep. Obesity, especially obesity in the neck, can increase the risk of developing OSA, because the fat tissue tends to narrow the airway. In some people, the airway is blocked by enlarged tonsils, an enlarged tongue, jaw deformities, or growths in the neck that compress the airway.

A combination of the two forms is also possible, and is called “mixed sleep apnea.” Mixed sleep apnea episodes usually begin with a reduced central respiratory drive, followed by obstruction.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Some of the risks for sleep apnea include: obesity, age over forty, a family history of sleep apnea,
a large neck or recessed chin, and abnormalities in the structure of the upper airway. Your ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Mexicans) may play a factor as well. Yet sleep apnea can affect both males and females of all ages, including children and any weight.

Most Common Symptoms

  • loud snoring
  • waking up tired and having trouble concentrating or staying awake during the day
  • waking up with headaches, or dry mouth
  • waking up during the night with a choking sensation
  • perspiring excessively during the night
  • a dry mouth upon awakening
  • depression
  • heartburn
  • reduced libido
  • insomnia
  • frequent trips to the bathroom during the night
  • restless sleep, tossing and turning
  • rapid weight gain
  • chest pulls in during sleep in young children

Untreated, Sleep Apnea can cause or worsen:

  • High blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease
  • Memory problems
  • Weight gain
  • Impotency and sexual dysfunction
  • Migraine headaches
  • Job impairment and motor vehicle crashes
  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Risk for heart attack and stroke
  • Sudden infant death syndrome
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Increase in the number of red blood cells (polycythemia)
  • Enlarged left ventricle of the heart (cor pulmonale)
  • Left ventricular failure
  • Life-threatening heart arrhythmias: heartbeat slowing (bradycardia) and racing (tachycardia)
  • Pickwickian syndrome
  • Right heart failure
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Chronic daytime low blood oxygen (hypoxemia) and increased blood CO (hypercapnia)

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Some of the risks for sleep apnea include: obesity, age over forty, a family history of sleep apnea,
a large neck or recessed chin, and abnormalities in the structure of the upper airway. Your ethnicity (African-Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Mexicans) may play a factor as well. Yet sleep apnea can affect both males and females of all ages, including children and any weight.

This website is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. Classic Brands is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made by a user based on the content of this website. Always consult your own GP if you’re in any way concerned about your health.