One of the most common sleeping disorders found these days amongst adults is sleep apnea. It is related to the breathing of the person during sleep. Normally, our breathing only pauses once during sleep, while on the other hand, the person suffering from sleep apnea has more than one pause. The term 'apnea' is for the frequent pauses in breathing which can last for a few seconds or minutes, and this can continue for an hour or so. What is ironic is that the person with this disorder does not quite understand or experience any inconvenience except for the disruption of sleep that occurs every week, for about 3 or more nights. It is usually the bed partners or others who notice this problem.
Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be classified into three types―obstructive, central, and complex apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This type is more common as compared to others. In this, the person has frequent pauses in breathing due to physical blockage of the airways despite the breathing effort function in the respiratory system which is triggered by the brain.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): This type occurs when the brain refrains from sending signals, which prevents the respiratory system from making the effort of breathing, causing many pauses in breathing during sleep.
Complex/Mixed Sleep Apnea: As the name suggests, it is a mix of both obstructive and central sleep apnea, and is caused by both physical blockage and lack of respiratory effort due to imbalance in brain controls.
The airway blockage is caused due to various factors such as nasal obstruction, shapes and palates of the jaw, a large neck or a large tongue, large tonsils, or narrow airway. It has been observed that obese people and those who regularly consume alcohol and sedatives are more likely to be affected by sleep apnea. However, it is also found in others due to various factors.
Symptoms in Adults
In between the pause and the breath, there are four things that happen internally within the body. First is that the airways get blocked or obstructed. Second is when the respiratory system makes an effort to breathe, but fails. In the third stage, the oxygen level in the blood keeps depleting because of the unsuccessful breathing. The final stage is where the oxygen amount reaching the brain reduces, and the body is signaled by the brain to take a breath. Following are some of the symptoms observed in adults to identify obstructive sleep apnea.
- Inability to concentrate
- Poor memory
- Day time sleepiness
- Frequent naps
- Excessive sleepiness
- Mood disorders
- Frequent urination at night
- Personality changes
- Mouth breathing
- Regular nightmares
- Dry throat in the morning
Diagnosis and Treatment
Sleep apnea is usually diagnosed by conducting a sleep test. Depending on the severity, the treatment that the doctor suggests would either be non-surgical or surgical. Surgical treatments might include nasal airway surgery, tracheostomy, tongue reduction, etc. Non-surgical treatments include the use of a CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) and medication.
Treatment should be sought with any delay. As mentioned earlier, if left untreated, the condition can become worse, and could even leave to a fatal outcome.
Disclaimer: This SleepHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.