Healthy Living

What is Sleep Apnea?

What is Sleep Apnea?

This is a sleep disorder which remains undiagnosed in most cases. In this disorder, a person’s breathing stops or gets interrupted during sleep, affecting the oxygen distribution to different organs. People affected by sleep apnea often stop sleeping briefly during the night.

Two types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea – This condition is characterized by pauses in breathing due to the blockage of the air passages by the relaxation of the throat muscles.
  • Central sleep apnea – Is caused by the changes in the signals controlling breathing. As the signals that regulate the respiratory cycle are affected, breathing often pauses during sleep.

Some other symptoms that point to sleep apnea include:

  • Insomnia
  • Episodes of waking during night with difficulty in breathing
  • Sleepiness during daytime
  • Dry mouth while waking up
  • Headache
  • Difficulty in concentration

A number of factors are known to increase the risk of sleep apnea:

  • Obesity
  • Age
  • Presence of enlarged tonsils
  • Family history
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Sinus problems
  • Deviated nasal septum
  • Smoking
  • Nasal congestion
  • Allergy

One should contact a doctor if there are any obvious symptoms of sleep apnea, as it may lead to many other health issues, including stroke, hypertension, heart failure, diabetes, and depression.

This disorder remains undiagnosed in many, as it may not be revealed during the regular visits to the physician. Both subjective and objective methods are used to diagnose this disorder. Polysomnogram is a test normally used to diagnose this condition if the patient presents with symptoms of sleep apnea. Electroencephalogram, electromyogram, electrocardiogram, and nasal airflow sensor also may be used for detecting the symptoms.

Treatments for sleep apnea are varied. This may range from simple home remedies or medications, to surgery.

Mild cases of sleep apnea can be controlled at home by following these tips:

  • Losing extra pounds
  • Quitting smoking
  • Limiting the intake of alcohol
  • Developing healthy sleeping habits
  • Avoiding sleeping on the back

Dental devices that help to keep the air passages open during sleep are often recommended to ease breathing during sleep. Surgery is suggested as an option if the disorder is caused by deviated nasal septum or a small lower jaw. A mask is worn over the mouth and nose during sleep to create a continuous airway pressure, and to prevent pausing of breath. This technique known as continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, and is one of the most effective treatments for sleep apnea.