Sleep apnea is a potentially deadly sleeping disorder whereby a person’s breathing ability is compromised while sleeping. This means the person can stop breathing for about 10 seconds and sometimes even longer. This may happen several times a night and can even cause the person to wake up to regain breathing ability before falling asleep again.
This sleep disorder can make a person feel sleepy during the day and worse, the disorder is progressive, i.e. it gets worse with age. Usually, the person from the disorder does not know he/she has sleep apnea and does not even recall the incidents of awakenings at night and can only be told by a sleep partner.
Causes of sleep apnea
An obstructed airway, A central nervous system disorder such as a stroke, a brain tumor, or even a viral brain infection and a chronic respiratory disease. There are a number of health problems that can be caused by sleep apnea most of which can be deadly. Untreated sleep apnea can increase the chance of having, hypertension, stroke, and heart attacks, high blood pressure. Untreated sleep apnea can also increase the risk of diabetes and the risk of work-related accidents and driving accidents.
Furthermore, it can be dangerous to motorists and can also affect academic performance for students due to a lack of concentration. It can also affect one’s daily routine and emotions e.g it can lead to A negative mood, irritability, low energy, and Daytime sleepiness
Types of sleep apnea
Sleep apnea can be categorized into two, obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common one, and central sleep apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): Obstructive Sleep Apnea is basically the process already discussed above; when the person is asleep the airway is blocked and makes it difficult to breathe. This in turn limits the amount of airflow into the body and consequently compromises oxygen levels in the bloodstream.
This lack of oxygen increases the stress on the heart, raises blood pressure. It may also prevent the patient from entering ” REM sleep “, the restful and restorative stage of sleep. Once the brain is deprived of oxygen, it signals the body to wake up and take a breath. This is when the person will be awoken to catch a breath and then fall asleep again.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) mostly affects adults who are overweight and with some form of allergies that cause a decrease in the airways in their noses, throat, or mouth. It is also most likely to affect those who have a family history of sleep apnea
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Diagnosis and treatment methods
Like narcolepsy, sleep apnea can be diagnosed by a sleep test called a polysomnogram (PSG). This test requires an overnight sleep at the testing center after a normal day for the patient. The experts will measure breathing patterns – oxygen levels, heart rates while the patient is asleep.
Sleep apnea can be treated using nonsurgical methods and surgical treatment methods. In the former, the method is known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This is not a cure but support to help the patient breathe by inserting a device into the patient’s breathing passage, which then prevents the collapse of the airways.
Without this device, obstructive sleep apnea would occur again. For the latter or rather the surgical methods, the obstructive sleep apnea can be treated through the removal of the tonsils or trimming the soft palate. This is done to open the sites of obstruction to breathing at the nose, palate, or tongue base.
Central sleep apnea
A person suffering from Central Sleep Apnea has a problem with the brain’s functions. Here the brain fails to give a signal to the muscles to breathe. This is usually caused by an instability in the central nervous system, more specifically the respiratory control center. With normal people, the brain is highly sensitive to carbon dioxide in the body such that any build-up of it is quickly exhaled through an increased breathing pattern.
But for people suffering from central sleep apnea, the brain is not as sensitive thus causing a build-up on carbon dioxide in the bloodstream. This normally results in hyperventilation as the person tries to remove all of the carbon dioxides that have been building up without the brain taking necessary action to remove it sooner.
Some known causes of central sleep apnea include Strokes, heart failure, kidney failure, and other Neurodegenerative illnesses. In central sleep apnea, snoring is not a usual occurrence but the neurological may also produce other symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, or lack of sensation throughout the body. This depends on the parts of the nervous system that is affected.
Read More: Symptoms of Narcolepsy