Health & Fitness

What is Sleep Apnea

image showing sleep apnea disorder

Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorders where there is a pause in breathing for some seconds before the person resumes breathing. This may result in a disruption in the normal sleep pattern and in severe cases will lead to poor quality of sleep. It so follows that those severely affected may become sleepy and feel tired during the day.

Even though the sleep disorder might appear to be common and not-so-serious, it can lead to some serious health problems. If left untreated, the disorder can result in:
⦁ Depression
⦁ Sexual dysfunction
⦁ Hypertension
⦁ High blood pressure
⦁ Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
⦁ Insomnia
⦁ Restless sleeping patterns
⦁ Choking or gasping during sleep
⦁ Night Sweats
⦁ Snoring frequently and loudly
⦁ Trouble with breathing during sleep

Other symptoms indicating a possible disorder are:
⦁ Fatigue
⦁ Morning headaches
⦁ Loss of memory
⦁ Irritability
⦁ Inability to concentrate for long
⦁ Depressions

Types of Sleep Apnea

Even though all the three types of sleeping disorders below differ as far as their causes and treatment are concerned, one aspect remains common – some parts of the respiratory system narrow down and impair the percentage of oxygen reaching the subject’s lungs. Here are the 3 known types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

This is a highly common form of the disorder found in a majority of the individuals suffering from the sleeping disorder. Obstructive sleep is a physical disorder. This type of the disorder is typically characterized by individuals who have:
⦁ More body weight
⦁ Small jawline
⦁ A small air passage in the trachea (windpipe)
⦁ Large tongue
⦁ Tonsils

Central sleep apnea (CSA)

This is a comparatively rare form of the sleeping disorder. It happens where the tracheal muscles do not sag too much, and the air passage remains large enough so that enough air can pass through. However, in this particular disorder, the diaphragm and the chest muscles temporarily fail to function effectively, which results in reduced oxygen levels in the blood.

Mixed sleep apnea (MSA)

In sporadic cases, some individuals experience both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea same time. The psychological and pathological impact of this disorder cannot be predetermined or ascertained since many factors affect its manifestation.

How to Treat Sleep Apnea

The treatment for the sleep disorder varies by the level to which the person is suffering from it. The treatment can be administered in the form of therapies and surgeries depending upon how much the disorder is affecting the individual. Below are the therapies available for this sleeping disorder:

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

This therapy is used if the individual has moderate to the severe sleep disorder. The treatment consists of a machine which delivers air (oxygen) through a mask placed over the nose while asleep. The air pressure remains higher than that of the surrounding air and is just strong enough to keep the air passages open.

Adjustable airway pressure devices

In this therapy, a particular type of air pressure device automatically adjusts the air pressure and oxygen levels while asleep. The basic functioning of the invention is similar to that used for CPAP therapy. However, it is a more advanced model and supports bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP).

Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV)

This airflow device learns and understands the regular breathing pattern, and subsequently stores the information in a built-in computer. While asleep, the machine regulates the air pressure to normalize the breathing pattern and prevents any pauses in the breathing activity. ASV is more successful than CPAP while treating central sleep apnea in some individuals.

Oral appliances

This therapy involves wearing an oral appliance specially designed to keep the throat “open”. Oral tools are easier to use. Some devices are specially designed to keep the throat open by bringing the jaw forward, which can at times even relieve snoring as well as prevent mild obstructive sleep apnea.


The primary objective of sleep apnea related surgery is to remove any excess tissues from the nose or the throat which may be causing the blockage of the air passage. This will be a discussion for another day.

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