Sleep apnea is a condition where someone has trouble breathing during sleep because of a temporary blockage in the upper airways. Because sleep apnea usually shows up when people are sleeping, it is difficult to figure out exactly why they're having trouble breathing.
When someone breathes, they breathe in oxygen and then expel carbon dioxide through the upper airways. It keeps your metabolism active by keeping your body well-oxygenated. When there is an obstacle in the upper airway, inhaled breath is compressed, which causes the sound of snoring to occur. It wakes up someone from a deep sleep into a state of drowsiness.
However, Apnea happens when the airway becomes completely obstructed and breathing ceases for several seconds to a few moments. This sends a distress signal to the brain while the rate of oxygen decreases in blood and the person is drawn awake from a light sleep by the brain.
This usually ends up resulting in a gasp or choking response when they wake up, opening their airways, and resolving the air blockage. As long as the person continues to go through this obstructive sleep apnea pattern, he will continue to experience these episodes every hour on average.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Sleep disorders are often not diagnosed, nor are they analyzed for their sources. Furthermore, if this kind of sleepiness is not treated immediately, it may lead to serious health complications including cardiac arrests, strokes, congestive cardiac failure, and arrhythmia.
Below are some of the symptoms of sleep apnea:
- A snoring sound raises periodically
- Sleep disorders that occur due to habitual lack of sleep
- Wake up feeling tired even after sleeping for a long time
- Sleep is disturbed due to loud gasps or snorts
- Feeling tired or exhausted throughout the day
- Be impulsive and irritable because of the lack of deep sleep
- Persistent memory loss despite trying hard to avoid it
- Lack of concentration
- Falling asleep without first lying down
- You may be experiencing sleep attacks when you’re engrossed in certain activities
- Persistent headaches, coughing, sore throats, and breathing difficulty during the daytime.
- Mood disorder
- Hyperactive behavior in young people, teens and children
- Uncontrollable and constant high blood pressure
- Swelling in joints or limbs (most severely).
Point 1 through 10 lists the milder symptoms associated with sleep apnea, while points 10 through 15 constitutes the more severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. If you suffer from one of these, go see your doctor right away.
How Do You Get Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airways close too tightly during sleep. It may be caused by overly relaxed muscle tone or serious medical conditions. However, it is important to know that there are many other factors, apart from obesity, which contribute to the development of chronic sleep apnea.
One of the first causes of sleep apnea is an obstruction in the upper airway due to muscle contractions. Below are some of the gradual and breakthrough causes of sleep apnea.
Masculinity or being a man
- Men face greater risks from sleep apnoea than females because they possess twice the risk of contracting sleep apnoea than females.
- This is because there are anatomical and hormonal differences between men’s throats and women’s throats.
- The ratio of men to women who experience sleep apnea is 3.2:1. however, menopausal women are just as likely to suffer from sleep apnea as men.
Senility or old age
- As we grow older, our circadian rhythms become increasingly disrupted. Deep sleep becomes less frequent than ever before.
- Apart from heightened sensitivities to environmental stimuli, postmenopausal women and elderly people with dementia are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than their younger counterparts.
- Rooting from Down syndrome, large tonsils can acutely obstruct the flow of oxygen into your upper airways, significantly.
- This reduces the muscle tension or speed at which muscles relax in the upper airways, thus preventing oxygen from reaching your bloodstream or worsening the chances of sleep apnea.
- Also related to Down syndrome, adenoids often increase during childhood and shrink in adulthood.
- Adenoid enlargement can cause obstruction of the upper airway and hence add to cause sleep apnea.
- A result of Down syndrome, an enlarged tongue can obstruct the flow of air through the throat and cause sleep apnea.
Shorter lower jaw in comparison with upper jaw
In Pierre Robin Syndrome, the smaller jaw structure causes the tongue to automatically fall back into the throat and obstruct the passage of air.
- This eventually leads to sleep apnea.
People who are overweight and obese are four times more likely to suffer from obstructive apneas than people with normal BMI.
Obesity causes deposits of fat around the upper part of the throat, which blocks the flow of oxygen and causes sleep apnea.
Large collar or neck size
- People who have a larger width or thickness of their necks tend to catch sleep apnea sooner than others.
- For men, the minimum size for a neck collar is 17 inches
- For women, the minimum size for a neck collar is 15 inches.
- An asymmetrical jaw size creates a large tongue and an overbite that causes the lower jaw to project outwards from the upper jaw.
- It causes obstructions in the airways, which result in multiple interruptions or arousals during sleep, thus causing sleep apnea.
- If your nearest relatives in the family history suffer from obstructive apnea, you're at greater risk for developing the same somnipathy.
Genetic history affects people to be born with a deviated septum, which makes them more likely to suffer from sleep apnea in the future.
- People who suffer from allergies, cardiac issues, dementia, strokes, and cardiac failure have a greater chance of developing sleep apnea.
- Brain injury patients are also at high risk for sleep apnoea.
Tumor growth / Hypothyroidism
- A tumor growing in the upper airways like those of hypothyroidism may cause obstruction of airflow and eventually lead to sleep apnoea.
Smoking reduces the fluid-retaining abilities of the upper airways, which causes inflammation in the throat.
- Smokers are three times as likely to suffer from sleep apnea than nonsmokers.
Sedatives/ substance abuse / Alcohol
- All tranquilizers like sedatives and alcohol relax the muscles of the airways, thereby making them narrow and obstructing the flow of oxygen. As a result, people who take these drugs often suffer from sleep apnea.
- Opioids and narcotics like painkillers dramatically raise the risk of sleep apnea.
- If you stop using substances immediately, you can get rid of most of these symptoms.
These describe the main causes of sleep apnea in a person. Sleep apnea can lead to serious health issues including liver malfunction, friction with roommate, severe respiratory ailments, extreme exhaustion, high levels of stress, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and even early mortality!
If you've found out that one of these reasons has caused your body to develop sleep apnea, then you need to see a sleep doctor right now to help you eliminate the fatal illness of sleep apnea.
Keep an eye out for our exclusive content on health and wellness!
As a degreed engineer, I love new technology as much as you do (perhaps more). I also understand how to sort the best products from the rest. My team and I spend dozens of hours each week reviewing the best & latest products for your bedroom. Many are tested in-house, and others we break down based on our technical understanding. Whether you need a bed-cooling system, an adjustable bed, or a new CPAP machine – we've got you covered.