What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that potentially has serious consequences. This condition causes people to stop breathing periodically as they sleep. The exact frequency varies depending on the severity of the individual’s sleep apnea. It is estimated that at least 22 million people are affected by this condition.  

Types Of Sleep Apnea

There are different types of sleep apnea. Which one you have depends on how your symptoms present.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) - This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It happens when the muscles in your throat relax and block your airway. Other structures of the upper airway, such as large tonsils or adenoids, can also block the passage of air.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) - With this kind of sleep apnea, your breathing is interrupted because your brain doesn’t correctly signal the muscles which control your breathing.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome - Also called treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, those people who experience this type of sleep apnea have a mix of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

What Are Some Of The Signs Of Sleep Apnea?

There are many signs of central and obstructive sleep apnea. These signs can often overlap, so some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Waking up with a headache
  • Struggling with irritability and mood swings
  • Waking up from sleep, gasping for air
  • Being extremely sleepy during the day
  • Trouble focusing
  • Often waking up with a dry mouth
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • High blood pressure

While you may notice some of these signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, it is also common for a partner to notice them. If your partner notices that you were struggling to breathe or stopped breathing in your sleep, these are also signs that you may have sleep apnea.

How Sleep Apnea Can Affect You

The symptoms of sleep apnea, while sometimes manageable, are more than an inconvenience.  Some of the most common complications stemming from sleep apnea are:

  • Liver issues - Those who have sleep apnea often show abnormal liver function in their test results. Also, their livers can present signs of scarring, which can point to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.
  • Metabolic syndrome - Those with metabolic syndrome have high blood sugar levels, heightened blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglyceride levels, and excessive body fat around the abdomen.
  • Daytime fatigue - While there can be plenty of triggers for daytime fatigue, regularly experiencing fatigue which doesn’t go away with a good sleep schedule can be a symptom of sleep apnea. This fatigue is a result of sleep apnea making it difficult for you to fall into a deep, restorative sleep.
  • Type 2 diabetes - As sleep apnea can lead to metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood sugar levels, you can also develop insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
  • Cardiovascular issues - Your cardiovascular system becomes strained by sleep apnea because the disorder cuts off your oxygen supply. Obstructive sleep apnea, in particular, can lead to high blood pressure, heart attacks, strokes, and hypoxemia or hypoxia.
  • Interferes with surgery and medications - Sleep apnea changes the way your body responds to some medicines and general anesthesia. Also, since many major surgeries require you to remain in a supine position, your sleep apnea can trigger difficulties with recovery as your body isn’t receiving enough oxygen and rest.

How Sleep Apnea Affects A Partner

Sleep apnea doesn’t just affect the person who has the condition. Often, the loud snoring which accompanies sleep apnea can prevent your partner from receiving restful sleep. In some cases, the sound can penetrate the entire home, leaving your partner and other family members struggling to sleep through the sound.

Potential Triggers For Sleep Apnea

Depending on what type of sleep apnea you have, there are different potential triggers which can cause the condition.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Overweight - Being overweight or obese can significantly increase your risk of developing sleep apnea, particularly if the fat deposits around the neck block your breathing.
  • Gender - Men are 2-3 times more likely to develop sleep apnea. Women can be at risk if they are overweight, especially if they have entered menopause.
  • Neck circumference - Individuals who have thicker necks may have narrower airways, which makes them more prone to having sleep apnea.
  • Nasal congestion - Those who have difficulty breathing through their nasal passage, whether allergies or anatomy cause the problem, can develop sleep apnea.
  • Narrow airway - Some people are just born with narrow airways or have issues with enlarged adenoids or tonsils, which can trigger sleep apnea.
  • Age - Older adults are significantly more prone to sleep apnea.
  • Certain substances - Substances such as sedatives, alcohol, and tranquilizers can make the muscles in the throat relax, which makes sleep apnea worse. Also, those who smoke are 3 times more likely to develop sleep apnea, as it inflames the throat and can cause fluid retention in the airway.
  • Family history - If there is a history of sleep apnea in your family, you may have a higher risk.

Central Sleep Apnea

  • Gender - Men are more likely to develop central sleep apnea than women.
  • Age - Those who are middle age and older have higher risk factors for developing this condition.
  • Narcotic pain medications - Medications with opioids can increase the risk of central sleep apnea, especially if they are long-acting.
  • Heart problems - Congestive heart failure can increase the risk of this sleep disorder.
  • Stroke - A stroke can lead to central sleep apnea or even treatment-emergent sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment Options

There are multiple treatment options to help with sleep apnea. Some of the most common treatment routes are:

Lifestyle changes - If there is an environmental trigger for the sleep apnea, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, weight loss, smoking cessation, and similar changes.

Devices - There are several devices which can help manage your sleep apnea. Some options are:

  • Auto positive airway pressure (AutoPAP or APAP) - This machine delivers air pressure to your airway through a mask to keep it open as you sleep. The AutoPAP is considered a more comfortable option, as it with automatically adjust the amount of air pressure it delivers based on your breathing needs.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) - Like the APAP, the CPAP delivers air pressure to the airway. However, it is programmed for just one pressure, which is set for the highest air pressure you will need through the night. This pressure can make falling asleep difficult.  
  • Oral appliance - While generally not as effective as the APAP or CPAP, oral appliances can be easy to use. They mostly function to alter how your mouth and airway are positioned as you sleep.

Surgery - Various surgeries exist to assist with sleep apnea, from removing tissue from your mouth to creating a new airway opening in your throat.

Find Affordable Sleep Apnea Solutions At ApneaMed

Here at ApneaMed, we make finding sleep apnea solutions faster and easier. It can take months to have an appointment with a sleep lab to determine if you have sleep apnea. With our at-home sleep apnea test kit, you can skip the long wait to find the answers you need.

If you believe that you may be struggling with sleep apnea, address the issue today. Get started by filling out our patient questionnaire. We can help you determine if you should go forward with an at-home sleep apnea test kit. You can receive a 10% discount on your home sleep test when you fill out our questionnaire before ordering a test kit.