Sleep apnea is a common serious sleep disorder which occurs when the breathing of a person experiences interruption during sleep. People with sleep apnea experience repeated interruption in their breathing during sleep. At times, as frequently as up to hundreds of times. What this means is that the brain — and other parts of the body — might become short of receiving oxygen.

Types of Sleep Apnea:

There are majorly, two types of sleep apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) – This appears is more common than the other form of apnea. An obstruction of the airways causes it. Obstructive sleep apnea usually happens when there is a collapse of the soft tissue at the back of the throat during sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea – This form of sleep apnea is not caused by any blockage but rather, it occurs when the brain fails to send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing because of an instability in the respiratory control center.

Another type of sleep apnea known as complex sleep apnea syndrome occurs when someone has central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea at the same time.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

It has been observed that the signs and symptoms of both central sleep and obstructive apneas sometimes overlap, this might make it hard to determine which form of sleep apnea you have. Some of the most common signs and symptoms of central sleep and obstructive apneas are listed below.

  • Gasping for breath when sleeping

  • Breath stoppage during sleep which someone else reports to you

  • Snoring out loudly

  • Waking up with a dry mouth

  • Irritability

  • Insomnia (Finding it hard to stay asleep)

  • Hypersomnia (Sleeping in excess during the daytime)

  • Morning headache

  • Finding it hard to pay attention when awake


When Should You See a Doctor

As noted earlier, snoring out loud can be indicative of a potentially serious problem, but it should be noted that it’s not everyone who has sleep apnea that snores. You should visit and talk with your doctor if you have noticed some of the other signs or symptoms of sleep apnea. You should inquire of your doctor about any sleep problem that ends up leaving you sleepy, fatigued and irritable.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Let us consider some of the factors that cause both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This condition can strike when muscles in the back of your throat relax. It is these muscles that provide support for the soft palate, the uvula (the triangle shaped tissue that hangs from the soft palate), the side walls of the throat, the tonsils and also the tongue.

The relaxation of these muscles causes the airways to close or become narrow when breathing in. Since enough air can’t be gotten, the oxygen level in the blood is lowered. The brain is able to detect your inability to sleep and will awaken you from your sleep briefly to enable you to reopen your airway. This awakening is however so short that you will not remember it when you’re finally awake.

This might lead you to choke, snort, or gasp for air. This pattern can be repetitive, repeating itself from between five times to 30 times or more each hour, and it goes on all night. This will disrupt you from reaching the deep, restful stages of sleep.

Central sleep apnea

This form of sleep apnea is not as common as obstructive sleep apnea. It happens when no signal is transmitted to your breathing muscles from your brain. What this simply means is that, for a short period, you will make no effort to breathe. You might wake up suddenly, short of breath or you may find it hard to sleep, even if you do you may find it difficult to stay asleep.


Sleep Apnea Risk factors

Sleep apnea can affect anyone of any age group, even children are not left out. There are certain factors however that can increase the risk of you having it.

  • Being Overweight – Obesity can highly increase your risk of sleep apnea. This is because there fat deposits that are around your upper airway can cause obstruction in your breathing.

  • Circumference of the Neck – The large neck size, puts you at a higher risk. This is because people with thicker necks are more likely to have narrower airways.

  • A Narrowed Airway – Due to genetics, it’s possible to have inherited a narrow throat. And also, adenoids or tonsils can grow larger and ultimately cause a blockage in the airway, this happens particularly in the cases of children.

  • Being Male – It’s two or three times more likely for men to have sleep apnea than women. The risk of women, however, is increased when they are obese and also after they attain menopause.

  • Older Age – Adults who are more advanced in years experience sleep apnea more than people of younger age.

  • Family History – If you have family members with sleep apnea, your risk might be increased as well.

  • Consumption of Sedatives, Tranquilizers or Alcohol – These mentioned substances can cause the muscles in your throat to relax, which can, in turn, make any case of obstructive sleep apnea worse.

  • Smoking – It is three times more likely for a smoker to have sleep apnea than for a nonsmoker to have it. Inflammation and retention of fluid in the upper airway is usually increased when you smoke, that is why it is a risk factor for sleep apnea.

  • Nasal congestion – When you find it hard to breathe with your nose, your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea are high.

Effects of Sleep Apnea

If you fail to treat sleep apnea, then the risk of you having more complicated health issues is increased. Some of these health issues can include:

  • Headaches

  • High blood pressure

  • Heart issues such as heart attack, heart failure, and irregular heartbeats

  • Depression

  • Diabetes

  • Worsening of ADHD
  • Stroke

In addition to these in adolescents and children, unchecked sleep apnea can result in academic underachievement and a poor performance in normal everyday life activities including school and work and vehicle accidents for adults.