Sleep apnea is a disorder that makes the person face difficulty in breathing while asleep. While the brain tries to protect you by waking you up so that you can breathe adequately, this prevents a healthy, restful sleep. This condition can result in serious complications over time. The good news is that this condition can be manageable with proper medication.
Sleep apnea is a condition that makes breathing while asleep difficult. Sleep apnea occurs when a person stop breathing while asleep. This occurs either because of blockage of airway or when the brain can’t control your breathing adequately.
A survival reflex is activated by the resulting lack of oxygen to wake you just enough so that you resume breathing. Even though this reflex ensures that you keep breathing, it also interrupts a healthy sleep cycle. As a result, restful sleep is prevented and some other effects are also seen that can put additional stress on the heart and have serious consequences.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone - whether its infants, children, or older adults. Obstructive sleep apnea is, however, more commonly seen in some groups of people and in certain circumstances.
Age: Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in males before the age of 50. After the age of 50, it affects males and females at the same rate. People are more susceptible to develop obstructive sleep apnea as they age.
Obesity: Having excess weight greatly increases your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea.
Race: Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in Hispanic, black, or Asian people. Following are the groups of people in whom sleep apnea is more common:
Although sleep apnea is rare, it is a widespread condition. Worldwide it affects about 5-10% of people.
There are many symptoms of sleep apnea. Some are easier to detect than others. Following are some of the symptoms:
There are certain causes responsible for sleep apnea and it is suspected that it runs in families. There are three main types of sleep apnea overall which differ in why and how they happen. Those include:
This form of sleep apnea occurs due to some problem in the brain. Normally, your brain controls your breathing at all times, even when you are asleep. Central sleep apnea is characterised by inability of the brain to send signals to keep the breathing-related muscles functioning. There are many different reasons that can be responsible for central sleep apnea such as:
This is the commonest form of sleep apnea which occurs when the neck and head muscles relax while sleeping, causing the surrounding tissues to press on the windpipe. This decreases the ability of the air to pass via it.
This type of sleep apnea is characterised by a combination of central and obstructive events.
For diagnosing sleep apnea, your doctor will ask you a few questions regarding your medical history and symptoms. If they suspect that you have sleep apnea on the basis of your answers and symptoms, they will suggest that you undergo testing for sleep apnea.
Following are some of the commonest tests performed to diagnose sleep apnea:
Depending on the type and severity of sleep apnea, many different treatment options are available. Even though none of these offer a complete cure, they can reduce the incidence, severity, and frequency of apneic events. If you have sleep apnea, many treatments must be a part of your everyday routine. That can decrease or eliminate the effects of sleep apnea on your life. Following are the possible treatments:
Conservative treatment approaches are nonmedical treatment modalities that can improve or resolve obstructive sleep apnea. Although they don’t provide a complete cure, they control the symptoms to a point where those are not severe enough to cause serious discomfort. Those include:
When the soft tissues in the neck or the head pressure down on the windpipe, obstructive sleep apnea occurs. Special oral devices are available that can help your tongue and jaw in a position that decreases the pressure on your windpipe. Sleep medicine specialists and dentists often collaborate together to design these for those who need them.
All the tongue movements are controlled by the hypoglossal nerve. If a stimulator is attached to this nerve, it will get stimulated and help push the tongue slightly forward while the person is asleep. This prevents the pressing of the tongue on the windpipe while you are asleep, which is one of the ways in which sleep apnea occurs.
The nerve under the jaw is attached to an electrode which then connects to a device placed under the skin in your chest. Before you sleep, the stimulator has to be turned on and it has to be turned off after you wake up. The strong electrical current prevents your tongue from relaxing too much.
Central sleep apnea can also be controlled with this type of nerve stimulation. It affects the phrenic nerves, the nerves that connect the diaphragm to the spinal cord. Stimulation of the phrenic nerve causes flexing of those muscles, facilitating breathing.
Surgeries of the mouth, nose, and throat can prevent obstructions in your throat, nose, and windpipe. However, their impact on adults is usually limited and differs from one person to another.
Sleep apnea can be prevented, especially when it occurs as a result of obesity or excessive weight. However, some people who are underweight or have a healthy body weight also develop sleep apnea. For such people, the cause of sleep apnea is usually a structural tissue and, therefore, it can’t be prevented. Following are some steps that you can take to decrease your risk of developing sleep apnea:
Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition that interferes with the breathing of a person while he’s asleep. This makes him wake up during the night and disrupts a healthy sleep cycle. It also prevents him from feeling rested. Over time, serious or deadly complications can arise as a result of sleep apnea, therefore, early diagnosis and treatment of the condition is important.
There are many treatment options available to control this condition, of which the most common and effective ones are positive airway pressure devices— meant to be used every night. These treatment approaches will show the best outcome when you stick to them and follow the advice of your doctor. If you are suffering from sleep apnea and reside in Indore, you can visit the Sleep Apnea Clinic at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Indore. Our experts will formulate the most suitable treatment plan for you that will help keep your symptoms under control and allow you to have a normal and fulfilled life.