Obstructive sleep apnea- a serious sleep disorder
Obstructive Sleep Apnea is a severe health condition where a person stops breathing for short periods during sleep. This condition occurs when the soft tissues of the mouth repeatedly block the airway during sleep. Airway obstruction reduces airflow into the lungs and causes breathing to stop for several seconds. Consequently, a person wakes up suddenly to resume breathing with snoring, choking, or gasping sounds.
Frequent episodes of sleep apnea can reduce the oxygen level in the body, affect sleep quality, increase pressure on chest muscles and lead to heart rhythm problems. If sleep apnea is not treated timely, it can cause life-threatening complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, heart failure, diabetes mellitus, eye problems, asthma, and memory problems.
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea
The following signs and symptoms can identify obstructive sleep apnea:
- Loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Sudden gasping or choking at night
- Broken sleep and frequent awakenings
- Sweating at night
- Nighttime urination
- Excessive sleeping during the day
- Difficulty concentrating
- Reduced sexual drive
- Dry mouth, sore throat
- Headache, fatigue, and irritability
What causes obstructive sleep apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that can affect both men and women. But the risk of disease is high in people with certain health conditions, physical characteristics, and genetic traits.
Major factors that cause or increase the risk of Obstructive sleep apnea are listed below.
● Overweight: Obese and overweight people have excessive fat around their necks that can block the airway.
● Nasal congestion and large tonsils can significantly reduce the diameter of the airway, causing sleep apnea.
● Genetic disorders: Genetic disorders that cause deformities in the skull and facial bones result in obstructive sleep apnea.
● Health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, hypothyroidism, and polycystic ovary syndrome can also increase the risk of sleep apnea.
● Unhealthy lifestyle: Alcohol consumption and smoking also affect the muscles involved in breathing.
● Heredity: The risk of sleep apnea is higher in people with a family history of the disease.
● Aging: Obstructive sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, but the risk significantly increases in people over 50 years.
Treatment and management of obstructive sleep apnea
The doctor will recommend a treatment plan appropriate for you based on the severity of your condition. There are various treatment options available for obstructive sleep apnea, including:
Changes in lifestyle
People with obstructive sleep apnea are advised to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, limit alcohol consumption, quit smoking, sleep on their side, avoid sleeping drugs and get good-quality sleep. A healthy lifestyle lessens snoring and relieves other symptoms of sleep apnea. It also helps to reduce the frequency of apnea episodes.
Sleep apnea devices
Several effective devices are available to treat obstructive sleep apnea.
● PAP (Positive airway pressure) devices: PAP is a breathing device people can wear over their nose and mouth while sleeping. It blows air through the nose and mouth to keep the upper airway open. Some commonly used PAP devices are CPAP and Bi-Level PAP.
● Oral devices: Oral devices push the tongue or jaw forward, preventing airway blockage during sleep. Mandibular repositioning mouthpieces and tongue retaining devices are two oral devices used for sleep apnea.
Surgical procedures are performed when other treatments are not effective in relieving the sleep apnea symptoms. Surgical treatments for sleep apnea include tonsillectomy, nasal surgery, jaw advancement surgery, uvulopalatopharyngoplasty, and tracheostomy. The doctor will determine the most appropriate procedures for the patients depending on the causes of sleep apnea.