Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder caused by interruptions in breathing. The breathing may stop repeatedly during the sleep; this leads to insufficient oxygen for the body and the brain. This is why a person with sleep apnea may feel tired even if he sleeps for many hours. It is estimated that nearly 22 million people in the country are affected by sleep apnea. However, approximately 80% of these cases are unreported or undiagnosed. People with sleep apnea may also snore loudly. However, it is not necessary that a person who snores suffers from sleep apnea.
Types of sleep apnea
There are three main types of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea syndrome.
- Obstructive sleep apnea
This is the most common form of sleep apnea. It is caused when the muscles of the throat relax leading to interruptions in breathing.
- Central sleep apnea
This form of sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing while a person is sleeping.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome
This type of sleep apnea occurs when a person suffers from central sleep apnea as well as obstructive sleep apnea. Complex sleep apnea syndrome is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep.
Risk factors for sleep apnea
There is no specific age at which sleep apnea affects a person. This sleeping disorder has been observed among children as well. However, there are specific factors that have been known to increase the probability of sleep apnea-
Being overweight increases the risk of sleep apnea by four times. This is because there might be additional deposits of fat around the upper airway that may cause interruptions in breathing.
- Circumference of the neck
It has been observed that people with thicker necks have narrower airways. Narrow airways increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.
- Narrow airway
The probability of sleep apnea is more in people who have a naturally inherited narrow throat. A narrow airway may also result from enlarged adenoids or tonsils.
Men are at relatively higher risk of suffering from sleep apnea compared to women. The risk for women rises after menopause.
The risk of sleep apnea increases with age. It has been observed that older adults are at a higher risk of suffering from sleep apnea.
The probability of sleep apnea is more if either of the parents or a sibling has sleep apnea.
People who smoke are three times as likely to have sleep apnea compared to people who don’t smoke. Smoking may cause fluid retention and inflammation in the upper airways leading to obstructive sleep apnea.
- Nasal cavity congestion
Anatomical issues of the nose or allergies can also cause snoring and sleep apnea.
- Heart problems
People who have cardiac problems are at a higher risk of central sleep apnea.
Symptoms of sleep apnea
The symptoms of all three types of sleep apnea are nearly the same. Some of the common signs and symptoms include the following-
- Loud snoring
- Repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep
- Shortness of breath
- Abruptly waking from sleep
- Morning headache
- Feeling tired during the day