Sleep Apnea

Also called: Sleep-disordered breathing

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes your breathing to stop or get very shallow. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour.

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea. It causes your airway to collapse or become blocked during sleep. Normal breathing starts again with a snort or choking sound. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly. However, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

You are more at risk for sleep apnea if you are overweight, male, or have a family history or small airways. Children with enlarged tonsils may also get it.

Doctors diagnose sleep apnea based on medical and family histories, a physical exam, and sleep study results.

When your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, you can be drowsy during the day. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents, and other medical problems. If you have it, it is important to get treatment. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery, and breathing devices can treat sleep apnea in many people.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The following features are indicative of Sleep Apnea:
  • loud snoring
  • breathing cessation during sleep
  • abrupt awakenings
  • shortness of breath
  • awakening with a dry mouth
  • sore throat
  • morning headache
  • insomnia
  • hypersomnia
  • attention problems
  • irritability
It is possible that Sleep Apnea shows no physical symptoms and still is present in a patient.

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Common Causes of Sleep Apnea

The following are the most common causes of Sleep Apnea:
  • relaxed back throat muscles
  • low levels of oxygen in blood
  • abruption of signals transmission to breathing muscles

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

The following factors may increase the likelihood of Sleep Apnea:
  • excess weight
  • thicker necks
  • narrowed airway
  • males
  • older age
  • family history
  • use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
  • smoking
  • nasal congestion
  • heart disorders
  • narcotic pain medications
  • stroke

Prevention of Sleep Apnea

Yes, it may be possible to prevent Sleep Apnea. Prevention may be possible by doing the following:
  • maintaining normal weight
  • exercise regularly
  • avoiding use of alcohol
  • keeping nasal passages open at night
  • quit smoking

Occurrence of Sleep Apnea

Number of Cases

The following are the number of Sleep Apnea cases seen each year worldwide:
  • Very common > 10 Million cases

Common Age Group

Sleep Apnea can occur at any age.

Common Gender

Sleep Apnea can occur in any gender.

Lab Tests and Procedures for Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

The following lab tests and procedures are used to detect Sleep Apnea:
  • Nocturnal polysomnography: To monitor heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while sleeping
  • Home sleep tests: To measure heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns

Doctor for Diagnosis of Sleep Apnea

Patients should visit the following specialists if they have symptoms of Sleep Apnea:
  • Otorhinolaryngologist
  • Sleep medicine specialist

Complications of Sleep Apnea if untreated

Yes, Sleep Apnea causes complications if it is not treated. Below is the list of complications and problems that may arise if Sleep Apnea is left untreated:
  • daytime fatigue
  • hypertension
  • heart problems
  • type 2 diabetes
  • metabolic syndrome
  • liver problems

Procedures for Treatment of Sleep Apnea

The following procedures are used to treat Sleep Apnea:
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): Helps keep upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP): Reduce snoring and daytime sleepiness in people with mild obstructive sleep apnea
  • Oral appliances: To keep throat open and relieve snoring and mild obstructive sleep apnea
  • Surgery: To enlarge the airway through nose or throat that may be vibrating and causing to snore or that may be blocking upper air passages and causing sleep apnea
  • Supplemental oxygen therapy: To treat central sleep apnea
  • Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV): To normalize breathing pattern and prevent pauses in breathing
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): To eliminate snoring and prevent sleep apnea
  • Bilevel positive airway pressure (BiPAP): To assist the weak breathing pattern of central sleep apnea

Self-care for Sleep Apnea

The following self-care actions or lifestyle changes may help in the treatment or management of Sleep Apnea:
  • Lose excess weight: Help to relieve constriction of throat
  • Regular exercise: Help ease the symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea
  • Avoid alcohol and certain medications such as tranquilizers and sleeping pills: Help ease the breathing
  • Quit smoking: Helps prevent the symptoms

Last updated date

This page was last updated on 2/04/2019.
This page provides information for Sleep Apnea.
Breathing Problems
Sleep Disorders

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