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What Is Sleep Apnea And Why Should You Get Tested?

Portea Homecare

Portea Homecare

  Domlur, Bengaluru     Feb 24, 2017

   0 min     


Sleep disorders are something that people generally take lightly- like a mild case of insomnia or the irregular snoring. But these small things may prove fatal if they are not treated in time. Such is the case of sleep apnea.

It is the type of sleeping disorder characterised by gaps in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during the normal sleep cycle. Each pause can last for a few seconds to several minutes, which could happen many times in a night. The obstruction of breathing during sleep is what lists it under a potentially serious disorder.

Young woman snoring in bed.

Often misinterpreted, this disorder is quite common, affecting over 10 million cases per year, only in India. The most common form of it is snoring. Though a person in effect of sleep apnea might be a loud snorer, this does not mean that every loud snorer is diagnosed with it.

However, a choking or snorting produced, as breathing resumes, is quite common with the patients. Though people suffering from this disorder are not often aware of it, hence left untreated it can last for years or even become a lifelong problem.

The Common Forms Taken Up By Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can manifest itself in three different forms:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common form of sleep apnea found in people. It is caused because of the breathing interrupted by blockage of airflow. Due to the relaxation of muscles and tissues, due to various reasons, in our neck and throat region, the breathing passage is blocked due to which the person encounters a problem of difficulty in breathing.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: This is the comparatively rarer type, affecting less than 1 percent of the people. In this, breathing stops due to the lack of effort to breathe.
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea: This is the mixture of the obstructive and central type of sleep apnea.

How Can It Be Detected?

                                                                    Woman asleep during day time at work

The symptoms are pretty common and can be detected quite easily; you just have to keep a look out for them. The following things, if happening on a regular basis, should sound an alarm:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Impaired alertness
  • Vision problems
  • Moodiness and belligerence
  • The decrease in energy and attentiveness

Who Are Prone To It?

                                              Being overweight increases your chances of sleep apnea by 4 times

The risk factors increase in the following contexts:

  • Excessive weight
  • Age above 40
  • Large Neck Size
  • Enlarged tonsils or Tongue
  • Small jaw bone
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Allergies
  • Sinus Problems
  • Family History
  • ‘Deviated Septum

Sleep apnea is commonly known to affect around 6-10 percent of adults and 2 percent of children. Men are twice as prone to this than women. Use of sedatives, alcohol, and tranquillizers may promote apnea by relaxing throat muscles. People who smoke are three times more vulnerable to this than the people who do not smoke.

High blood pressure is a common problem among people suffering from sleep apnea. Though the proper diagnosis can only be made by a doctor which is generally done with overnight sleep study- more than five episodes an hour are supposed to occur for someone under the effect of sleep apnea.

What Is The Mechanism Of Sleep Apnea?

When breathing is paused, the level of carbon dioxide in the bloodstream alleviates. On detecting this, the chemoreceptors send a signal to the brain which then signals a person to wake up and breathe in air. As proper breathing is resumed, the oxygen levels in the blood are restored, and the person falls back to sleep once again.

What Are Major Harms Done If Not Treated Properly?

It is a universally known fact that having a proper good night’s sleep is essential for a person. The disruption in sleeping cycle caused by sleep apnea leads to excessive sleepiness and tiredness during the daytime. A certain difference in the cognitive state and behavior of a person can be clearly detected.

The lack of proper sleep affects the organs that govern the executive functions of the brain- like memory and learning, processing information in waking state.

If not treated it leads to increased risk of the following health problems:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Heart Failure
  • Obesity
  • Irregular heartbeat

This could also lead to sleep paralysis, which consequently may lead to insomnia. In the case the effects become intractable, depression could follow as well. It may also lead to impairment of the liver predominantly the fatty liver diseases and the like.

Due to the lack of oxygen to the body, death could also occur in rare cases.

How Can It Be Treated?

The treatment generally starts with the changes needed to be made in lifestyle- like abstaining from alcohol and smoking. You are most likely to be advised to lose weight and maintain a healthy regimen. Sleeping on sides is advised in place of sleeping on the back. Reclining beds also prove helpful to some people as it counters the gravity crash of the flap obstructing the breathing passage.

Mouthpieces and breathing devices are recommended. The commonly used device is theCPAP machine. It is the most effective treatment for severe obstructive sleep apnea. In this, by the means of pressurized air, a person’s airway is splinted during the sleep. The person characteristically wears a facial plastic mask, attached by a flexible tube to a bedside CPAP machine.

                              Man with sleep apnea using CPAP machine wearing headgear mask connecting to air tube

Although by proper use, it is effective in reducing apneas, some people find it uncomfortable. It leads people to feel claustrophobic, and they complain of feeling trapped. People may also suffer some degree of discomfort in the chest and nose or skin irritation. Other side effects include dry mouth, dry nose, nosebleeds, and sore lips and gum.

The final solution is undergoing a surgery. Based on the origin of a person’s sleep apnea, doctors may advise surgery of different types.

If you think you are suffering from sleep-related disorders, get in touch with Portea. Portea’s diagnostic test package includes Sleep study along with free CPAP titration for 2 days for sleep related disorders and management of obstructive sleep apnea. With Portea, you can rent or buy a variety of sleep therapy equipment.


Tags:  Sleeping Disorders, Sleep Apnea, Obesity, deviated septum,depression,CPAP machine,insomnia,

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