People with sleep apnea stop breathing while they sleep, and this happens up to a hundred times per night. With normal breathing, air passes through the nose and past the flexible structures, such as the soft palate, uvula and tongue, in the back of the throat. When awake, the muscles hold this airway open. When asleep, these muscles relax, but the airway should remain open. Individuals who suffer from sleep apnea have an upper airway that is blocked, causing oxygen levels to drop in both the brain and the blood.
What is sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that affects many Americans. This condition causes interruptions in a persons sleep cycle while they are sleeping and unaware. Having sleep apnea results in shallow breathing or breathing pauses during sleep, which can be very dangerous.
The Causes Of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea when the airway closes during sleep, specifically the upper airway. Certain factors may put certain people at risk for developing sleep apnea. These causes could be:
- Enlarged tonsils
- Enlarged adenoids
- Family history
- Cardiovascular problems
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Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea
Patients with sleep apnea may wake up with a headache in the morning and experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms may include:
- Loud snoring
- Waking up with a dry mouth
- Abrupt awakenings during the night
Types of sleep Apnea
There are three types of sleep apnea that can occur, they all involve abnormal breathing while a person is sleeping. The three types are:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea – The most common form of sleep apnea, it occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat closes, blocking the airway.
Central Sleep Apnea – The airway remains open in central sleep apnea, but the brain does not send signals to the muscles involved in breathing.
Mixed Sleep Apnea – Mixed sleep apnea combines aspects of the obstructive and central types of apnea. A common warning sign of sleep apnea is snoring with gasps or lack of breathing.
Treatment For Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be treated with lifestyle changes or surgery. Depending on the severity and speaking with a doctor you will know what is right for you. Changes in lifestyle such as losing weight, lowering alcohol consumption and quitting smoking could improve your condition. Mouthpieces and nasal-training devices are another great option for managing sleep apnea. Other treatment options may include:
Surgery – by moving the anatomic structure of the mouth and face, surgeons can eliminate the tissue collapsing during sleep.
Oral Sleep Appliances – can blow air into the throat and help keep the airway open during sleep.