Sleep apnea is a fairly common sleep disorder that can affect both adults and children. It causes you to stop breathing or experience low breathing at certain points during sleep. Each period of not breathing is known as an apnea and canker anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. This can occur any number of times from 5 to 30 or more every hour. The condition can be diagnosed by spending a night in a sleep lab and sufferers have problems with daytime fatigue, slowed reactions and vision problems. There are three different types of this condition which we will detail below.
This is the most common type of sleep apnea and is caused by the relaxed muscles around the throat obstructive breathing. People with excess soft tissue in that area, usually due to obesity are at particular risk of sleep apnea. It is important to seek treatment as this can lead to sleep deprivation, low blood oxygen levels and other serious issues and complications.
The risk of developing this kind of sleep apnea increases with weight, age and if you are a smoker or suffer with diabetes. Men are more likely to develop it than women or children but it can affect anyone. Symptoms typically include loud snoring, restless sleep and daytime fatigue.
This type of sleep apnea is also known as Cheyne-Stokes respiration and occurs when the brain respiratory control centers are off balance during sleep. This condition can be much more different than the one described above because there is no struggling or trying by the body to breathe. The sufferer will just drift in and out of breathing due to brain malfunction.
Stopping breathing means that the body sufferers with hypoxia (a lack of oxygen in the body) and hypercapnia (an excess of carbon dioxide in the body). A lack of oxygen can lead to brain damage, heart problems, seizures and in the worst cases sudden death. Too much carbon dioxide in the blood can lead to conditions such as metabolic acidosis.
Mixed Apnea or Complex Apnea
Mixed apnea as you would probably guess is a mixture of the two conditions described above. In most cases of mixed apnea the central apnea will occur as a direct result of the obstructive sleep apnea but can also be taken on by drug use, particularly narcotics.
Treatment for the varying kinds of sleep apnea range from simple lifestyle changes to surgery depending on the type and severity of the condition. In some cases it can be as simple as adjusting your sleeping position or switching to a memory foam mattress. If you use a lot of alcohol or drugs (prescription or not) cutting down or stopping completely can make a difference. Maxillomandibular advancement is the most popular and considered the most effective. It works by increasing the posterior airway space and is a very low risk surgery with a very high success rate.
Another less conventional method is to learn and play a wind musical instrument. This can strengthen the muscles around the throat and reduce the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.