Sleep Apnea, Symptoms Causes and Cures

During sleep, if your bed partner snores without disturbing your sleep, you do not think of snoring as something to worry too much. But, if snoring increases to disturb your sleep it may be sign of a potentially serious health problem known as sleep apnea or sleep aponea.

Although sleep apnea can be treated, it often remains unnoticed. So it is better to learn and recognize the warning signs and how to distinguish it from normal snoring, is the first step to overcome sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is defined as a reduction or cessation of breathing during sleep. It is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing is called an apnea which can last from at least ten seconds to several minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder which can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night's sleep. 

There are three types of sleep apnea. 
1. Central (CSA) CSA, means stopped breathing due to lack of respiratory effort,
2. Obstructive (OSA) in OSA, breathing is interrupted by a physical block to airflow despite respiratory effort.
3. Complex or mixed sleep apnea (ie, a combination of central and obstructive) 

What are the causes of sleep apnea?

Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles. You may awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep. This usually occurs in infants or in adults with heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, or congenital diseases, but it also can be caused by some medications and high altitudes.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by relaxation of the throat muscles; the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and closes, resulting in blocked airways.
Are you at risk?

It doesn't mean that if you snore, you have sleep apnea, however you may have sleep apnea but you may not snore at all. So how do you differentiate between normal snoring and a more serious case of sleep apnea?

The best way to determine weather you have sleep apnea is to video record yourself while sleeping. You can use a sound-activated audio recorder, a video camera, or software that turns your computer into a recorder.

Write down your observations, time you spend on bed, any night time awakenings and weather you feel refreshed in the morning or not if you feel extreme fatigue as at the time of going to be feel sleepy you are more likely to have sleep apnea, further observe your daytime behaviour if you continue to suffer from fatigue and sleepiness during the day consult your doctor for diagnosis. 

It is more common in males but anyone can have sleep apnea—young, old, female, and even children. However, you have more risk if you are over 65, overweight, smoker or related to someone having sleep apnea.

Some other factors like having a thick neck, deviated septum, abnormal throat muscel relaxation during sleep, receding chin, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids (common in children) may cause obstructive sleep apnea. Allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage can also contribute to sleep apnea.

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you experience loud snoring enough to disturb your partner, shortness of breath that awakens you from sleep or excessive daytime drowsiness, which may cause you to fall asleep while you're working, watching television or even driving

What are the symptoms and signs of sleep apnea?

A sign is something the doctor, nurse, or somebody else may notice, such as a rash or swelling, while a symptom is something only the patient feels and describes, such as pain or dizziness.

There are 2 major signs and symptoms 

1) Restless sleep due to gasping for air, If pauses occur while you snore, and if choking or gasping follow the pauses.

2) Another common sign of sleep apnea is fighting sleepiness during the day, at work, or while driving. You may find yourself rapidly falling asleep during the quiet moments of the day when you're not active. 

These are major signs that you have sleep apnea. The signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, sometimes making the type of sleep apnea more difficult to determine. Some other common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:

Insomnia 
daytime sleepiness 
nonrestorative sleep (feeling as tired in the morning as before going to bed) 
fatigue 
headaches 
irritability, mood and personality changes, such as depression and anxiety
poor memory and attention 
confusion 
sexual dysfunction 

Even if you don't have daytime sleepiness, talk with your doctor if you have problems breathing during sleep. It is important to note that the bed partner of individuals with sleep apnea may also suffer from poor nighttime sleep and can have some of the same symptoms. 


Health complications related to sleep apnea?

According to Mayo clinics (uk) people with sleep apnea may complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or feelings of depression, a need to urinate frequently at night (nocturia), and a decreased interest in sex. Children with untreated sleep apnea may be hyperactive and may be diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
If left untreated it can result in serious health complications like:
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Risk of heart attack or stroke
  • Sudden cardiac death
  • Automobile accidents 
  • Family members suffer - especially if a person shares the same bed or bedroom. Loud snoring, a common feature of OSA, can undermine the quality of sleep of other members of the household.
  • Erectile dysfunction - problems either getting an erection or maintaining one.
How to treat Sleep Apnea?

Your doctor may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms or may refer you to a sleep disorder center. Where a sleep specialist can evaluate your symptoms and help you find an effective treatment. For milder cases of sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend only lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking. If these measures don't improve your signs and symptoms or if your apnea is moderate to severe, a number of other treatments are available.

Treatments usually revolve around:

  1. Treating the underlying medical condition causing the apnea, such as a heart or neuromuscular disorder
  2. Using supplemental oxygen while you sleep
  3. Using breathing devices that will also manage obstructive sleep apnea

Medications or stimulants are used only for treating daytime drowsiness, and sleepiness associated with sleep apnea, not the apnea itself. Main treatments used for treating sleep apnea are as under:



1) CPAP (Continues Positive Airway Pressure): 

Under this therapy a mask-like machine, size of a tissue box provides a constant stream of air that keeps your breathing passages open while you sleep. It is the most common treatment applied to treat moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea. 

In many cases, you’ll experience immediate symptom relief and a huge boost in your mental and physical energy. However, some peoples find it uncomfortable. If that is the case don't give up your CPAP, talk to your doctor and customize your mask to obtain a comfortable fit. Researchers at the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Michigan found that after two months CPAP treatment, patients looked more alert, youthful and attractive.

2) Bilevel positive airway pressure (BPAP) devices: 
BPAP is designed for people who do not tolerate the higher pressures of CPAP.central sleep apnea sufferers who need assistance for a weak breathing pattern. This device automatically adjusts the pressure while you're sleeping, providing more pressure when you inhale, less when you exhale. Some BPAP devices also automatically deliver a breath if it detects you haven't taken one for a certain number of seconds.

3) Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV):
These devices can be used for treating central sleep apnea as well as obstructive sleep apnea. The ASV device stores information about your normal breathing pattern and automatically uses airflow pressure to prevent pauses in your breathing while you’re asleep."1" />

4) Oral devices 
These are mouthpieces designed to keep the throat open. A mandibular advancement device is worn inside the mouth during sleep; it pulls the lower jar (mandible) forward slightly so that the throat is less constricted (narrow) at night.
Nozovent Anti-Snore 2/Box from Scandinavian Formulas

5) surgery:
Surgery is usually only an option after other treatments have failed. Generally, at least a three-month trial of other treatment options is suggested before considering surgery. However, for those few people with certain jaw structure problems, it's a good first option.

In many case, self-care may be the most appropriate way for you to deal with obstructive sleep apnea and possibly central sleep apnea. So if you suffer from sleep apnea try these home remedies and tips.

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