Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea: What You Need to Know


Snoring is a common occurrence that many people are aware of in today’s society. This is either via living with another person who snores or experiencing bouts of snoring yourself. What a person may not realize is that snoring can be a sign of a further sleeping disorder, particularly obstructive sleep apnea. This type of sleeping condition is a potentially fatal disorder as it causes a disruption in the individual’s breathing. This article will provide information on this type of sleep apnea including the causes, symptoms and treatments.

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

There are various types of sleep apnea, but the most common of all these is the obstructive form. As is mentioned above, it is a condition where one’s breathing is disrupted resulting in a “starting and stopping” breathing pattern. This occurrence is due to the throat muscles relaxing too much to allow for normal breathing causing an intermittent blocking of the airway during sleep.

What Are The Causes?

Obstructive sleep apnea involves the excessive relaxation of throat muscles in the back of the throat to the point where the airway narrows or closes while breathing. The breathing may be inadequate for approximately 15 seconds. The brain typically senses impaired breathing which results in waking from sleep to reopen the airway; however, this waking is so brief that few remember it. In many cases, a gasping or snorting sound will be made associated with a shortness of breath.

While the above mentioned behavior is the technical cause of this type of sleep apnea, there are various risk factors that can contribute to the development of obstructive apnea.

– Excess Weight

Approximately 50% of people with obstructive apnea suffer from excess weight. The extra fat deposits surrounding the airway can obstruct breathing and cause a disruption in breathing patterns. Of course, thin individuals can develop this sleep disorder as well so it is not only those who are overweight who are at risk.

– Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common characteristic in people with obstructive apnea.

– Narrow Airway

Individuals with genetically narrow airways will experience disrupted breathing patterns. Furthermore, enlarged tonsils can also block the airway.

– Diabetes And Asthma

Research has found that there is a strong association between diabetes and sleep apnea; as well as asthma and obstructive apnea.

– Gender

Statistics have found that males are 50% more likely to suffer from this type of sleep apnea.

What Are The Symptoms?

The different signs and symptoms of this type of sleep apnea include:

– sweating during the night
– loud snoring
– increased feelings of fatigue during the day
– headaches in the morning
– problems concentrating during the day
– sudden mood changes
– increased blood pressure or hypertension
– feelings of irritability or depression
– waking with a sore throat or dry mouth
– waking during the night by choking or gasping
– decreased sex drive
– observed breathing disruption during sleep

The majority of individuals may not consider many of the above symptoms to be serious, but it is highly advised that one consult a professional if the following symptoms are experienced:

– waking during the night by choking or gasping
– intermittent breaks in breathing patterns during the night
– high-volume snoring loud enough to disturb others
– excessive feelings of daytime fatigue

What Treatment Is Available?

There are various types of treatments for this type of sleep apnea and the treatment used is dependent on the level of condition severity. A mild case may result in a doctor recommending lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if overweight or exercising more regularly. If, however, lifestyle change is not successful there are additional therapies available.

1. Positive Airway Pressure

This treatment involves the use of a machine that is fitted over the person’s nose while they are asleep. Air pressure is delivered through the machine making the air breathed constant; thereby, reducing the risk of breathing obstruction.

2. The Mouthpiece

While the positive airway pressure option is a highly effective option, the mouthpiece is suitable for people with mild to moderate obstructive apnea. The device operates by keeping the throat open and reducing the chance of the airway becoming constricted. Some mouthpieces operate by bringing the jaw forward to open the airway and this can relieve the condition and snoring.

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