What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common condition that is characterized by abnormal breathing during sleep. This often leads to holding breath and disrupted sleep. The multiple pauses in breath can affect the supply of oxygen to the brain and the health consequences can be serious. It's one of the most common sleep disorders and it affects those of all ages.
It's more common in men and because of the way that sleep apnea affects sleep, it can also affect your mental health in a negative way. Understanding what sleep apnea is with the help of your ENT doctor is the step you need to get the best recommended treatment.
Types of sleep apnea
There are three different types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when your airway becomes physically blocked and your breathing pauses. Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when there's a problem with the brain system that controls respiratory muscles.
This makes your breathing much shallower! Lastly, you have mixed sleep apnea which is both types at the same time. It's important to understand which type you are experiencing so that your ENT doctor can work with you to fix the issues.
Is sleep apnea common?
Two to nine percent of adults in the US experience obstructive sleep apnea, but there are many cases that are undiagnosed. We do know that obstructive sleep apnea affects more men than women and it's more common in older adults. Less than one percent of adults are affected by central sleep apnea, and generally when people are talking about sleep apnea, it's obstructive sleep apnea that they are referring to.
Sleep apnea: Symptoms
To tell whether you may be experiencing sleep apnea, look for these symptoms:
- Disrupted breathing that leads to breaths being labored and even stops for sixty seconds at a time.
- Exhaustion during the day
- Limited attention span
These are the direct result of poor sleep, which is what sleep apnea causes. Some of the other symptoms include snoring, a dry mouth and nocturia. Those with sleep apnea are not often aware of their problem with their sleep and it takes a partner close to them to let them know that they are having sleep issues.
Sleep apnea: Causes
During sleep, obstructive sleep apnea happens when the airway is blocked. Multiple things can make this happen, from large tonsils to tissue at the back of the throat affecting airflow. Weight issues are also a factor and being overweight is a leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea: Risks
Sleep apnea leads to a lack of sleep, interrupted sleep which equals low quality and mental health issues as a result. It can also lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks and stroke as there is an oxygen imbalance.
Treating sleep apnea
Speak to your ENT doctor about sleep apnea if you believe that you are experiencing it. They will be able to conduct the right studies to see whether it's affecting you and how you can get through it. Lifestyle changes – like weight loss – can help and you can also go through an assessment to see whether you have enlarged tonsils blocking your throat.