What Is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a common medical disorder that comprises of repeated breathing pauses during sleep. These pauses may occur hundreds of times each night, and are be the result of anatomical abnormalities or brain malfunctions. During normal breathing, air passes through the nose, past the flexible structures in the back of the throat, including the soft palate, uvula and tongue. When a person is awake, the muscles hold this airway open. During sleep muscle tone is greatly reduced. Throat muscles relax but the airway usually stays open. If the throat muscles collapse it causes a blockage of air.
Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway and airflow are blocked, causing the oxygen levels to drop in the blood and brain. Although you might think you slept for 6-8 hours last night, every time you stopped breathing, followed by a detrimental drop in your blood oxygen level. Then the brain sends an urgent system wide alert to start breathing so you do not die. This signal is enough to waken you just enough for you to clear the obstruction. Then you immediately go back to sleep only to start the cycle again. Thus, sleep apnea patients have chronic low levels of oxygen, undue organ stress and do not benefit from the rejuvenating effects of sleep.
Causes Of Sleep Apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs as a result of a partial or fully blocked airway passage in the throat. Certain features may put certain people at risk for developing sleep apnea, which include:
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Cardiovascular problems
- Throat and tongue muscles that are more relaxed than normal
- Deviated septum
- Receding chin
- Poorly aligned teeth
- Family history
- Nasal congestion and Allergies
- Adults over the age of 60 may be more at jeopardy of developing sleep apnea because the aging process can limit the brain’s ability to keep the throat muscles stiff during sleep.
- Use of alcohol or sedatives
While the typical Sleep Apnea patient is an overweight male over 50 years old with high blood pressure and diabetes. There are thin, young, healthy-looking females that are affected by OSA. The only way to diagnoses OSA is with a sleep test.
Obesity And Sleep Apnea
These two conditions are interlinked. One cause the other to get worse and vice versa. Obesity increases the fatty tissue in the neck making it easier to collapse and occlude the airway at night. When a person is sleep deprived, they produce less Leptin. This is the hormone that tells us to STOP eating. Instead, they produce more Ghrelin. This is the hormone that makes us feel hungry. A sleep deprived patient’s cells become more insulin resistant, which blocks their ability to deliver energy giving glucose. This can also lead to diabetes. It truly is a vicious cycle: Eating more leads to further weight gain, which leads to worsening sleep apnea. A glimmer of hope comes from the fact that fixing one can help the other condition improve.
Types Of Sleep Apnea
There are two main types of sleep apnea that have different causes.
In patients with Central Sleep Apnea the airway remains open but the brain does not send signals to the muscles involved in breathing.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. It happens when the soft tissue at the back of the throat closes, blocking or obstructing the airway.
Sleep Apnea Symptoms
People that suffer with sleep apnea usually experience Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). Further symptoms may include:
- Loud snoring
- Abrupt awakenings during the night
- Shortness of breath that awakens them from sleep
- Morning headaches
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Diabetes or pre-Diabetes
- Not feeling alert as soon as you awaken
- Multiple nightly awakenings to urinate
- Reduced libido and/or impotence
- Uncharacteristic moodiness, depression or irritability
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- GERD, Reflux or Heartburn
- History of Stroke or TIA
- Coronary Artery Disease
- Congestive Heart Failure
- Night Terrors
If you or a loved one is concerned with the possibility of having sleep apnea, call our office. Let us show you how easy we make it for Pasadena and Deer Park residents to be screened and treated for sleep apena. Call our office at 832-487-0647 or come visit us at 3421 Burke Rd #1, Pasadena Texas 77504.