Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder where a personís breathing stops and restarts multiple times during sleep. Normally when a person sleeps, air flows smoothly from the nose & mouth up to the lungs, however, in apnoea or apnoeic episodes breathing completely stops for a few seconds followed by abrupt awakening and gasping for breath.
It is a potentially serious condition as it results in reduced oxygen supply to your body especially to the brain, eventually leading to a number of health problems including excessive daytime sleepiness. Men are more commonly found to have sleep apnoea; however, the occurrence is relatively common in older, obese, post-menopausal women as well.
There are a few factors that are more commonly associated with sleep apnea like
The three major types of sleep apnoea are
Obstructive sleep apnea: it is the most common type of apnoea and occurs due to the excessive relaxation of the throat muscles that results in narrowing of the airway and reduced oxygen levels in the body. This reduced oxygen level is recognized by the brain causing the person to wake up gasping or choking for air. Depending on the level of airway narrowing, symptoms can vary from snoring to very poor quality of sleep and increased health complications.
Central sleep apnea: it is a relatively rare type of sleep apnoea that occurs due to the inability of the brain to regulate normal sleep and the reduced brain signals to the muscles involved in breathing thereby resulting in a very shallow sleep pattern, pauses in sleep and repeated awakening in the night. This type of sleep apnoea is generally associated with other disease conditions like congestive heart failure, stroke, and ingestion of certain drugs like benzodiazepines, opioids, etc.
Mixed or complex type: this is a type of apnea that has been recently widely recognized and has features of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Patients initially diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea but not showing any improvement with appropriate treatment are generally categorized into this type. However, the exact cause of complex sleep apnea or the lines of management for improvement of symptoms is still being explored.
SYMTPOMS & COMPLICATIONS
The most common symptom seen in apnea is loud snoring, especially in the obstructive type which occurs due to partial narrowing of the airway. The other symptoms that may be associated are excessive daytime sleepiness, dry mouth on waking, morning headaches, reduced concentration throughout the day, memory disturbances, reduced daytime energy, sexual dysfunction, depression or anxiety, restlessness, night sweats, or increased nighttime urination.
People with long-term sleep apnea can eventually have serious complications like heart disease or attacks, atrial fibrillation, impotence, GERD, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, liver disorders, stroke, dementia, and increased risk of road traffic accidents, and premature death.
The different investigations used to evaluate sleep apnea is once again based on the different types and presenting symptoms of a person.
The approach to treatment for sleep apnea can be divided into conservative or surgical based on the severity of symptoms or type of apnea.
Small changes in our day to day life can greatly reduce the risk of developing sleep apnea like
Although these changes can help reduce the overall occurrence of apnoea, people with worsening symptoms or certain other types like central sleep apnea require an immediate visit to the doctor for further management.