Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and feel fatigued even after a whole night’s sleep.
According to the reports, Sleep Apnea occurs in about 25% of men and nearly 10% of women. It can affect people of all ages, including babies and children and particularly people over the age of 50 and those who are overweight.
There are different types of sleep apnea such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea, it is a more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax. And, Central Sleep Apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. Also, Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
The most common signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:-
- Loud snoring
- Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Awakening with a dry mouth
- Morning headache
- Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
- Difficulty paying attention while awake
When should you see a doctor?
Loud snoring can indicate a potentially serious problem. However, not necessarily everyone who has sleep apnea snores. You must talk to your doctor if you have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea. It is important to enquire your doctor about any sleep problem that leaves you fatigued, sleepy and irritable.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
There are different causes for the different types of Sleep Apnea. For example, Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue.
And, in the event when the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. It becomes difficult to get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it. You might snort, choke or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night, impairing your ability to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep.
Central sleep apnea is a less common form of sleep apnea. It occurs when your brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles. This means that you make no effort to breathe for a short period. You might awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone. But certain factors can increase your risk. Factors that increase the risk of this form of Obstructive sleep apnea include:-
1. Excess weight
Obesity greatly increases the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits around your upper airway can obstruct your breathing.
2. A narrowed airway
You might have inherited a narrow throat. Tonsils or adenoids also can enlarge and block the airway, particularly in children.
3. Family history
Having family members with sleep apnea might increase your risk.
4. Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers
These substances relax the muscles in your throat, which can worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea. Smoking can increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
6. Nasal congestion
If you have difficulty breathing through your nose whether from an anatomical problem or allergies, you are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.
7. Medical conditions
Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease are some of the conditions that may increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea. Polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, prior stroke and chronic lung diseases such as asthma also can increase risk.
Risk factors for Central sleep apnea include:-
- Heart disorders – Having congestive heart failure increases the risk.
- Using narcotic pain medications – Opioid medications, especially long-acting ones such as methadone, increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
- Stroke – Having had a stroke increases your risk of central sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
For the diagnosis of sleep apnea, the best pulmonologist in Hyderabad may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms and a sleep history, which you can provide with help from someone who shares your bed or your household, if possible. You are likely to be referred to a sleep disorder center. There, a sleep specialist can help you determine your need for further evaluation.
An evaluation by the pediatric pulmonologist in Hyderabad often involves overnight monitoring at a sleep center of your breathing and other body functions during sleep. Home sleep testing also might be an option.
Some of the tests to detect sleep apnea include:-
1. Nocturnal polysomnography
During this test, you are hooked up to equipment that monitors your heart, lung and brain activity, breathing patterns, arm and leg movements, and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
2. Home sleep tests
Your doctor might provide you with simplified tests to be used at home to diagnose sleep apnea. These tests usually measure your heart rate, blood oxygen level, airflow and breathing patterns.
If the results are abnormal, your doctor might be able to prescribe a therapy without further testing. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor might refer you to an ear, nose and throat doctor to rule out blockage in your nose or throat. An evaluation by a cardiologist or neurologist might be necessary to look for causes of central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
The treatment for sleep apnea aims to normalize breathing during sleep and address any underlying health problems. The options will depend on the cause and severity of symptoms. Some of the lifestyle modifications are essential to normalizing breathing and are critical first steps in treatment. For example, following a heart-healthy diet, developing healthy sleeping habits, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, managing weight and sleeping on the side.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy
This is another method for the treatment of sleep apnea. It keeps the airway open by gently providing a constant stream of positive pressure air through a mask. Sleep apnea treatment without CPAP may also be offered.
Some people have trouble using CPAP and stop the treatment before achieving any lasting benefit. However, many measures can help make the equipment more comfortable, and the adjustment period smooth. A person can adjust the mask and its settings. Adding moisture to the air as it flows through the mask can relieve nasal symptoms. There is maskless sleep apnea treatment as well.
Some of the surgical procedures can widen the airway in people with OSA. Surgical procedures can stiffen or shrink obstructing tissue, or remove excess tissue or enlarged tonsils. Depending on the extent of the surgery, the person may undergo the procedure in a doctor’s office or a hospital.
If you are suffering from sleep apnea, you must visit the best pulmonologist in Hyderabad kukatpally for consultation and suitable treatment.