Sleep apnea is a serious disorder where a person’s breathing repeatedly starts and stops during their sleep due to obstruction of their airway. There are three categorizations of sleep apnea. The first type is the most common in obstructive sleep apnea. In this categorization a person’s throat muscles are too relaxed which leads to gravity bringing the muscles down and cutting off the airway throughout the night. The next type is central sleep apnea, which occurs when the brain does not send the proper signals to your throat muscles leading to them to relax and block the airway during sleep. The last type of sleep apnea is complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of the first two types.
Some symptoms to be aware of include: snoring loudly, waking up tired or unrested from a full nights sleep, frequent rousing during the night with shortness of breath, insomnia, and excessive daytime sleepiness. There are certain factors that can heighten your risk to sleep apnea disorders. These factors do not necessarily mean you have a sleep disorder and vice versa, you may have a sleep disorder with out having any of these risks. If you have any concerns we recommend you make an appointment as soon as possible.
Factors that give a person a higher risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea are:
- Excess weight – Fat can deposit in your neck around your airway, which can obstruct your breathing.
- A narrowed airway – Tonsils and Adenoids can enlarge and block an airway, particularly in children. It is also possible to simply be born with a narrowed airway.
- Being male – Men are two to three times more likely to have sleep apnea than are women. However, women increase their risk if they’re overweight, and their risk also appears to rise after menopause.
- Being older
- Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers – These substances relax the muscles in your throat, which can lead to or worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
- Smoking – Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are people who’ve never smoked.
- Nasal congestion – If you have difficulty breathing through your nose — whether from an anatomical problem or allergies — you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea.
Factors that give a person a higher risk of Central Sleep Apnea
- Being older – Middle-aged and older people have a higher risk of central sleep apnea.
- Being male – Central sleep apnea is more common in men than it is in women.
- Heart disorders – Having congestive heart failure increases the risk.
- Using narcotic pain medications – Opioid medications, especially long-acting ones such as methadone, increase the risk of central sleep apnea.
- Stroke – Having had a stroke increases your risk of central sleep apnea or treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
Complications from sleep apnea:
- Daytime fatigue – The repeated awakenings that occur with sleep apnea make having a restful sleep near impossible, which often leads to severe daytime drowsiness, fatigue and irritability.
You might have difficulty concentrating and find yourself falling asleep at work, while watching TV or even when driving. This might lead to moodiness or depressed feelings. Children might suffer in their academics or have behavior problems in school.
- High blood pressure or heart problems – The sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that occur during sleep apnea due to the lack of air increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system.
Obstructive sleep apnea might also increase your risk of recurrent heart attack, stroke. Low oxygen levels can also lead to irregular heartbeats.
- Type 2 diabetes – Having sleep apnea increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
- Complications with medications and surgery – Obstructive sleep apnea is also a concern with certain medications and general anesthesia. People with sleep apnea might be more likely to have complications after major surgery because they’re prone to breathing problems, especially when sedated and lying on their backs.
Before you have surgery, tell your doctor about your sleep apnea and how it’s being treated.
- Sleep-deprived partners – Loud snoring can keep anyone who sleeps near you from getting good rest. It’s not uncommon for a partner to have to go to another room, or even to another floor of the house, to be able to sleep.