What is Sleep Apnea?

Definition

Sleep apnea is frequently associated with snoring. It is not only snoring that causes of sleep disruptions, it is when airflow becomes obstructed enough to cause disruption in sleep when sleep apnea is diagnosed. The patient would have a narrowing of the airways behind the voice box and the tongue, limiting the airflow. This repeatedly causes undue strain on the heart which may lead to hypertension, irregular heart rhythm, heart attacks and strokes. In addition, it causes undue strain on the brain which makes the sleep process ineffective. This latter will cause significant mood depression, memory difficulties, trouble with concentration and productivity, as well as significant sleepiness leading to accidents if left untreated.

Causes

Sleep apnea is caused by the relaxation of the muscles in the throat while a person is asleep to a point where the airway collapses and becomes obstructed. When the airway closes, a person stops breathing and awakens to open the airway these arousals usually only last a few seconds but disrupt a person’s sleep and makes it more difficult for a person to get into deep sleep and REM. This cycle of paused breathing occurs several times a night. Typically, the frequency of waking episodes is somewhere between 10 and 60. A person with severe OSA may have more than 100 waking episodes in a single night.

Types of Sleep Apnea

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

    Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder caused by the obstruction of the airway. Apnea is characterized as ten seconds or more of paused breathing many times during the night.

  • Central Sleep Apnea

    Repeated stopping in breathing during sleep because the brain temporarily stops sending signals to the muscles that control breathing.

  • Complex Sleep Apnea

    Complex sleep apnea is sleep disordered breathing, secondary to simultaneous upper airway obstruction and respiratory control dysfunction.

Risk and Predisposing Factors
  1. Excessive weight gain
  2. Age
  3. Anatomic abnormalities
  4. Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
  5. Use of alcohol and sedative drugs
  6. Smoking
  7. Nasal congestion
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
  1. Excessive daytime sleepiness
  2. Frequent awakening during the night
  3. Decreased memory
  4. Physical signs: loud snoring, witnessed apneic episodes, obesity
  5. Hypertension
  6. Falling asleep in stimulating and non-stimulating environments
  7. Awakening unrefreshed in the morning
  8. Headaches
  9. Poor concentration
  10. Restless sleep
Treatment
  1. Positive airway pressure
  2. Oral appliances surgical options
  3. Weight reduction
Possible Complications Due to OSA
  1. Arrhythmias
  2. Heart disease
  3. High blood pressure
  4. Stroke
  5. Hypoxia
  6. Pulmonary Hypertension
  7. Mood depression
  8. Erectile Dysfunction

   

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