Sleep Apnea - Causes, Types, Symptoms, After Effects and Treatment
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Sleep Apnea - Causes, Types, Symptoms, After Effects and Treatment

Sleep apnea is a common disorder which prevents a person from getting restive sleep. Snoring, gasping for breath, tiredness and sleeplessness are the most common symptoms of this disorder. If left untreated, it could lead to serious health problems like diabetes and heart diseases. Lifestyle changes and medical devices can give relief from sleep apnea.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder which affects the sleeping pattern pf a person. This disorder is very common. Many people do not realize that they have this disorder. It is characterized by snoring and breathing problems during sleep. The people who are affected by sleep apnea feel tired during the day because of disturbed sleep during night. The breathing pattern of a person is affected considerably. There are pauses in breathing which occur repeatedly thus disturbing the sleep of a person. It is usually caused by obesity, medical conditions or enlarged tonsil tissues.

What happens during sleep?

The air flow stops during sleep thus leading to a drop in oxygen level in the blood. The brain reacts by unsettling the deep sleep of the person affected by sleep apnea. The person is awakened for a brief moment and starts breathing accompanied by a choking sound, gasp or snort. The throat muscles are tightened and the wind pipe is opened to let air. In ordinary cases, the person will not be aware of this process. Those who have central sleep apnea will be aware of it. The routine of such patients will be affected considerably. They will feel sleepy during the day time and be awake during the night if the disorder is not treated.

What are the various types of sleep apnea?

1. Obstructive sleep apnea

This type of disorder is very common. It occurs when the soft tissue blocks the airway. This tissue present in the back throat relaxes during deep sleep. Snoring is the well known symptom of this disorder.

2. Central sleep apnea

The central nervous system is related to this disorder. It is not common. The inability of the brain to warn the muscles that control breathing causes this disorder.

3. Complex sleep apnea

A patient suffering from this disorder will be affected by both obstructive and central type of sleep apnea.

What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

1. Snoring

2. Breathing pauses

3. Snorting, choking or gasping for breath

4. Sleeping during day

5. Tiredness

6. Sore throat

7. Parched mouth

8. Headaches

9. Loss of concentration power

10. Agitated sleep

11. Frequency to urinate

12. The tendency to forget 

13. Depression

14. Bad temper

15. Sulkiness

16. Sleeplessness during night time

Children who are affected by this disorder show symptoms of nightmares, strange resting positions, bed wetting, and snoring, sweating, anger, inhalation through mouth, growth problems and poor show in studies. 

What are the after effects if sleep apnea is not treated in time?

1. Diabetes

2. High blood pressure

3. Weight gain

4. Heart diseases

5. Sluggish reflexes

6. Loss of restive sleep

7. Arrhythmias – heart beat irregularity

What are the self help tips to reduce sleep apnea?

1. Weight loss

2. Give up smoking habit

3. Stop using alcohol, sedatives or sleeping pills

4. Eat at least two hours before going to sleep

5. Evade caffeine

6. Adopt a regular sleep timetable

7. Sleep in a side position and prop pillows to avoid sleeping on the back

8. Use devices like nasal dilator, breathing strips or saline spray

Surgery in serious cases involves removal of tonsils, adenoids or surplus tissues. Patients are also given the ‘continuous positive airflow pressure device’ to get instant relief. Other devices are ‘bi-level positive airway pressure’ and adaptive ‘servo-ventilation’.

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Comments (6)

Very informative and useful.Thanks.

thank you sir

Thank you Deepa for such an informative article about sleep. Voted.

Well presented complete educational article.Thank you.

thank you dear

A nasal dilator will only work for those who snore, not for those who actually have sleep apnea. There are specific Pillows for CPAP users that make sleeping with a mask easier. I heard about these and I knew I would need one especially since I wear a full face mask.