September 25, 2020

Sleep Apnea: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Options

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder where breathing can stop and start repeatedly. Oftentimes, people with sleep apnea snore loudly and end up feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep.

Fortunately, there are numerous sleep apnea treatments available nowadays. In this article, you’ll get to know the common symptoms of the condition, the possible causes, and the different sleep apnea management options you can try.

Common Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Some of the telltale signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Episodes where breathing stops
  • Loud snoring
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping)
  • Sometimes gasping for air during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness during daytime)
  • Irritability
  • Waking up with a dry mouth

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea

This condition occurs when the muscles situated in the back of the throat will relax. Said muscles support the uvula (the triangular ties that hangs from the soft palate), soft palate, tonsils, tongue, and the side walls of the throat.

When the muscles relax, the airway will narrow down or close as the individual breathes in. This can result in the individual not getting enough air. The oxygen level in the blood will also lower down as a result.

When the brain senses the individual’s inability to breathe, the brain rouses them briefly from sleep so they can reopen their airway. The awakening however is often very brief that many patients barely remember it.

Patients may choke, gasp, or snort. The pattern can be repeated up to 30 times or more each hour during the night, impairing the individual’s ability to obtain a deep and restful sleep.

Central sleep apnea

This is a less common type of sleep apnea which occurs when the brain fails to transmit signals to the breathing muscles of the body. This means the individual will also make no effort to breathe, at least for a short period. Individuals suffering from the condition may wake up experiencing shortness of breath or may have a difficult time getting back to sleep.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea

Fold milder cases, lifestyle changes like quitting smoking or losing weight might be recommended. For those with moderate to severe sleep apnea, it is reassuring to know several treatment options are available. Certain devices can also help open up the blocked airway. Severe cases may require surgery.

Some of the therapies and treatment options available for sleep apnea include:

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

Those who have moderate to severe sleep apnea can benefit from using a CPAP machine. The machine works by delivering air pressure through the mask while the patient sleeps. 

Other airway pressure devices

If using a CPAP machine is something patients are not comfortable with, they have the option to use another kind of airway pressure device that will automatically adjust the pressure while they are sleeping. Units that provide bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP) may be recommended.

Oral appliances

Another option patients have is wearing an oral appliance that’s designed to keep the throat open. While CPAP is considered more effective compared to oral appliances, the latter is easier to use. Some of the oral appliances will help open the throat by bringing the jaw forward which could relieve both mild obstructive sleep apnea and snoring.

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