Healthy Living

These Treatment Options Can Prevent Fatal Consequences for Sleep Apnea

These Treatment Options Can Prevent Fatal Consequences for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder when patients experience pauses in their breathing throughout the night. Some with sleep apnea snore loudly and feel tired, even after a full night’s sleep, and may also experience an abrupt awakening including shortness of breath, dry mouth or a sore throat each or headaches each morning. Sleep apnea can cause irritability, attention problems, hypersomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness.

Complications of sleep apnea include:

  • High blood pressure and heart problems. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels during a sleep apnea episode strain the cardiovascular system.
  • Metabolic syndrome or a collection of risk factors linked to a high rate of heart disease is a risk. 
  • Unusual results on liver function tests. Livers may also show signs of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Sleep apnea usually occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These are the muscles that support the soft palate, your tonsils, and the side walls of the throat and tongue. When the muscles relax, your airway closes or narrows as you breathe in. You don’t get an adequate air supply, and this lowers the level of oxygen in your blood. Your brain knows about the lack of air and temporarily disturbs you from sleep to reopen your airway. The awakening is brief, and you probably don’t even realize or remember you woke up. Patients with obstructive sleep apnea are not aware that their sleep was interrupted, but they can stop breathing anywhere from five to 30 times every hour, all night long.

You are at risk for obstructive sleep apnea if:

  • You are overweight or obese. Deposits of fat around your upper airway obstruct your breathing. Note, that not everyone with sleep apnea is obese or even over weight.
  • You have a larger neck. This might mean narrower airways.
  • You can inherit a narrow throat. Adenoids or tonsils may also become enlarged and cut off air to your airway.
  • Men are two times at higher risk than women for sleep apnea, but women are at higher risk after menopause.
  • Sleep apnea hits those who are older, but there are exceptions to this risk, also
  • If there is someone in your genetic family with sleep apnea, you are at risk.
  • Use of alcohol, tranquilizer or sedatives can cause sleep apnea since these substances can cause airways to relax.
  • Smokers are three times more likely to have sleep apnea than are those who have never smoked. Smoking increases the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
  • Nasal congestion can bring on breathing problems. You have difficulty breathing through your nose, and you may develop obstructive sleep apnea.

Because sleep apnea can have dangerous consequences if left untreated, it's vital that patients or their loved ones know the treatment options. Read on to learn the options that can effectively treat sleep apnea.