Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

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Sleep Apnea is a term that most of us have heard of. Many people associate it with snoring, and some may believe that people who snore have sleep apnea. But let’s dig deeper into this condition and learn more about it.

Sleep apnea is a chronic sleep disorder marked by episodes of complete or partial upper airway obstruction during sleep. This condition causes a decrease in the oxygen content of the blood as well as sleep fragmentation, which is characterized by repeated short interruptions of sleep. Because of this airway obstruction, the typical symptoms of having sleep apnea are snoring and fatigue during the day as a result of chronic sleep deprivation.

What are the consequences of Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

The primary effect of this condition is a decrease in sleep quality. This causes daytime drowsiness and fatigue, as well as cognitive dysfunction and poor work performance. This condition has also been linked to other conditions such as systemic hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Certain studies have also found that men who suffer from sleep apnea have significantly lower testosterone levels than those who do not.

What factors contribute to sleep apnea?

Age, obesity, family history, craniofacial abnormalities, heavy cigarette smoking, and alcohol consumption are all risk factors for this condition. This condition also has a male predominance. Menopause, in particular, can be a risk factor for women. However, it is important to remember that these are only risk factors that may increase your vulnerability to the disorder, not the actual causes.

Children’s symptoms may be less obvious. They could include:

  • Bed-wetting
  • Drooling or choking
  • Sweating profusely at night
  • When they exhale, their ribcage moves inward.
  • Learning and behavioral issues
  • School-related issues
  • Slowness or sleepiness (often seen as laziness)
  • Snoring
  • Grinding of the teeth
  • Bed restlessness
  • Breathing that pauses or comes to a halt
  • Sleeping in unusual positions, such as on their hands and knees or with their neck bent far back

These symptoms can also be caused by a variety of other medical conditions. Consult with your doctor to rule them out.

How do we treat Sleep Apnea?

Although this is a serious disease, it frequently goes undetected. Sleeping partners can assist in reporting any irregularities during the night, such as heavy snoring and/or breathing problems/pauses in sleep. Early detection aids in the provision of appropriate and effective therapy for those suffering from sleep apnea, allowing them to avoid serious health consequences.

Milder forms of this condition would be treated with the following:

  • slimming down
  • smoking cessation
  • keeping a regular sleeping schedule
  • or treatment of nasal allergies to aid in better nighttime breathing

If these methods do not improve symptoms, or if the case of sleep apnea is severe, various treatments/devices are available. The Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine, which you put on before going to bed, is one of the most common and reliable methods. To keep the upper airways open, this machine delivers air pressure through a mask.

Other methods include Oral Appliances, which are designed to keep your throat open, and Supplemental Oxygen machines, which are used to compensate for the lack of oxygen while sleeping. These are just a few of the treatments and therapies available to help with this condition.

When should you see a doctor?

Snoring can be a sign of a serious problem, but not everyone with sleep apnea snores. If you have signs or symptoms of sleep apnea, consult your doctor,if you are tired, sleepy, or irritable due to a sleep disorder.

Causes

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

This occurs as a result of your throat’s back muscles relaxing. These muscles support the tonsils, the side walls of the throat, the tongue, and the triangular piece of tissue (uvula) hanging from the soft palate.

When you relax your muscles, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. You’re not getting enough oxygen in your blood because you’re not getting enough air. Your brain awakens you temporarily when it notices that you are having trouble breathing so you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you will forget about it.

You may sneeze, choke, or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself five to thirty times or more per hour, all night, impairing your ability to achieve deep, restful sleep.

Central obstructive sleep apnea

When your brain is unable to communicate with your breathing muscles, sleep apnea of this kind develops. This implies that you stop trying to breathe for a little while. You can have trouble falling or staying asleep, or you might wake up with breathing problems.

Risk elements

Anyone, including children, can suffer from sleep apnea. However, certain factors raise your risk.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

The following factors increase the risk of this type of sleep apnea:

  • Extra weight. Obesity significantly raises the risk of sleep apnea. Fat deposits in the upper airway can obstruct breathing.
  • A clogged airway.Tonsils and adenoids can also enlarge and block the airway, especially in children.
  • Being a man. Men are three times more likely than women to suffer from sleep apnea. Women, on the other hand, appear to be at greater risk if they are overweight, and their risk appears to rise after menopause.
  • A family tree. Sleep Apnea in your family may increase your risk.
  • Use of sedatives, tranquilizers, or alcohol. These substances can worsen obstructive sleep apnea by relaxing the muscles in your throat.
  • Smoking. Smokers are three times more likely than nonsmokers to have obstructive sleep apnea. Tobacco use can increase inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway.
  • Congestion in the nose. You are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea if you have difficulty breathing through your nose, whether due to an anatomical problem or allergies.
  • Medical problems. Some of the conditions that may increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea include congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease. Polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, a history of stroke, and chronic lung diseases such as asthma can all raise the risk.

Central obstructive sleep apnea

Risk factors for this kind of sleep apnea include the following:

  • Growing older. People in their forties and fifties are more likely to suffer from central sleep apnea.
  • Being a man. Men are more likely than women to suffer from central sleep apnea.

Heart problems Congestive heart failure raises the risk.

  • Using narcotic pain relievers. Opioid medications, particularly long-acting opioids like methadone, raise the risk of central sleep apnea.
  • Stroke. A stroke increases your chances of developing central sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.

Complications

Sleep apnea is a potentially fatal medical condition. Possible complications include:

  • Daytime exhaustion. The frequent awakenings caused by sleep apnea make normal, restorative sleep impossible, resulting in severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue, and irritability. You may find it difficult to concentrate and fall asleep at work while watching TV, or even while driving. People who suffer from sleep apnea are more likely to be involved in car accidents and workplace accidents.
  • High blood pressure or cardiac issues Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels caused by sleep apnea raise blood pressure and put a strain on the cardiovascular system. Obstructive sleep apnea increases your risk of hypertension (hypertension). Obstructive sleep apnea may also increase your chances of having another heart attack, stroke, or abnormal heartbeats such as atrial fibrillation. Multiple episodes of low blood oxygen (hypoxia or hypoxemia) can lead to sudden death from an irregular heartbeat if you have heart disease.
  • The metabolic syndrome. High blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood sugar, and an increased waist circumference are all symptoms of this disorder, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. 
  • Medication and surgery complications. Certain medications and general anesthesia can cause obstructive sleep apnea. Because they are prone to breathing problems when sedated and lying on their backs, people with sleep apnea may be more likely to have complications after major surgery.
  • Problems with the liver. Sleep apnea patients are more likely to have abnormal liver function tests, and their livers are more likely to show signs of scarring (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease).
  • Partners who are sleep-deprived.Snoring can prevent anyone sleeping nearby from getting a good night’s sleep. It’s not uncommon for a partner to have to sleep in another room, or even on a different floor of the house.

Takeaway

As you can see, this is not a situation to be taken lightly. It is difficult to detect, so enlist the assistance of your sleeping partner. If they notice any irregularities while you sleep, you should consult your doctor to investigate further and intervene as soon as possible if necessary.

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