Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. An individual’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep, if he is suffering from sleep apnea. Symptoms include daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and restless sleep.
The involuntary pause in breathing can result either from a blocked airway or a signaling problem in the brain, and most people with the condition suffer from the first kind, which is known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). On the other hand, Sleep apnea due to a signaling problem is known as central sleep apnea (CSA).
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Your airway may be blocked or narrowed during sleep simply because your throat muscles tend to relax more than normal, and allergies or other medical conditions that cause nasal congestion and blockage may also contribute to sleep apnea.
However, Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat, which 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 relax.
When these muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, and you can’t get adequate air in. This lowers the level of oxygen in your blood.
Subsequently, the brain senses this inability to breathe and momentarily rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This momentary awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.
This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night long, causing disruptions that impair your ability to reach the desired deep, restful phases of sleep. You’ll probably feel sleepy during your waking hours.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may not be aware that their sleep was interrupted, and some people with this type of sleep apnea may actually think they slept well all night.
Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is often associated with serious illness, such as heart disease, stroke, neurological disease, or spinal or brainstem injury. Central sleep apnea is more common in males and people over the age of 65, and the first step in treating central sleep apnea is to treat the existing medical conditions that are causing it.
Causes And Treatment For Sleep Apnea In Children
The most common causes of obstructive sleep apnea in children are enlarged tonsils and adenoids, and a simple adenotonsillectomy to remove the tonsils and adenoids usually corrects the problem.
Your family doctor may also recommend using a CPAP or other breathing device for the child.
If excess weight is causing your child’s obstructive sleep apnea, then you will need to support, encourage, and help your child reach and maintain a healthy weight.
Fast Facts on Sleep Apnea
Here are some key points about sleep apnea:
- Around 1 in 5 adults have mild symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).
- Around 1 in 15 adults have moderate-to-severe symptoms of the same condition.
- Approximately 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, but only 20% have been diagnosed and treated.
- Menopausal and postmenopausal women have an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea, OSA.
- Sleep apnea is a risk factor for hypertension or high blood pressure.
- While sleep apnea can affect people of all ages, including children, but is more prevalent in those aged 50 years and above.