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What is Sleep Apnea?

What is Sleep Apnea?

You’re Not the Only One!

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person's breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep. These interruptions, called apneas, can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur hundreds of times a night. They are caused by the collapse or blockage of the airway, which can occur for a variety of reasons.

People with sleep apnea often snore loudly and may wake up feeling tired, even after a full night's sleep. They may also experience difficulty concentrating, irritability, and depression. In severe cases, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems such as high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and diabetes.

The 3 Main Types of Sleep Apnea

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, causing it to become blocked.
  2. Central sleep apnea: This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  3. Complex sleep apnea syndrome (CSAS): This type of sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

What Causes Sleep Apnea

  1. Obstruction of the airway: The most common cause of sleep apnea is the obstruction of the airway during sleep. This can be due to the relaxation of the muscles in the throat, which can cause the airway to narrow or collapse. This can be caused by obesity, which can cause excess fat to accumulate in the neck and throat, or by structural abnormalities in the airway, such as a large tongue or small jaw.
  1. Age: Sleep apnea becomes more common with age, as the muscles in the throat become weaker and less able to keep the airway open.
  1. Family history: If you have a family member with sleep apnea, you may be more likely to develop the disorder.
  1. Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
  1. Smoking: Smoking can irritate the airways and increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  1. Alcohol and sedative use: Alcohol and sedatives can relax the muscles in the throat, increasing the risk of sleep apnea.
  1. Chronic nasal congestion: If you have chronic nasal congestion, it can be more difficult to breathe through your nose, which can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  1. Other medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as hypothyroidism and acromegaly, can increase the risk of sleep apnea.

Solutions for Sleep Apnea

In many cases, sleep apnea can be treated and managed, but it is often a chronic condition that cannot be completely cured. The goal of treatment is to reduce the number and severity of apneas and improve the quality of sleep.

Treatment options for sleep apnea may include:

  1. Lifestyle changes: Losing weight, avoiding alcohol and sedatives before bedtime, and sleeping on your side can help reduce the risk of sleep apnea.
  1. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: This is a common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth while sleeping to deliver a steady stream of air to help keep the airway open.
  1. Oral appliances: These are devices that are worn in the mouth to help keep the airway open. They can be effective for mild to moderate sleep apnea.
  1. Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct structural abnormalities in the airway. Options may include procedures to remove excess tissue from the airway or to reposition the jaw or tongue to help keep the airway open.

It is important to work with a healthcare provider to determine the most appropriate treatment for your individual needs. Regular follow-up with your provider is also important to ensure that your treatment is effective and to make any necessary adjustments.