Sleep apnea is a condition that affects over 12 million Americans every year and 90% of these people do not know that they are afflicted. Sleep apnea is defined as a sleeping disorder in which someone has trouble breathing as they sleep. More specifically, while sleep the affected person will have pauses during breathing for a length ranging from ten seconds to a few minutes. These episodes will occur repeatedly throughout the night between five to up to and sometimes over thirty times per hour. Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed and untreated resulting in many of the condition's symptoms including daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, depression, irritability, problems remembering and concentrating, heartburn, morning and night headaches, insomnia, and unexpected gain gain. Not every affected person will suffer from all of these symptoms but those who have sleep apnea will suffer from one or a few of these symptoms.
There are many causes and contributors of the conditions; the most common cause is enlarged tonsils and adenoids. When the tonsils are inflamed, they will create an erection in air trying to get into the body and therefore cause the apnea when throbbing muscles relax during sleep. This cause can be fixed with a surgical removal of the tonsils and adenoids called tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy. About half of the people that have a sleep apnea condition are obese. One of the major causes of this condition is soft tissues building up around the airways and restricting them, then when muscles relax during sleep airflow is significantly restricted. Weight loss would greatly reduce the symptoms and aid breathing during sleep for obese people. Another cause can be the shape of one's head, teeth, jaw structure, or other abnormalities. These can restrict airflow to the body in a variety of different ways depending on the specific case. Over-relaxation of the throat and tongue muscles can also be a cause of the main issue. When these muscles relax, they close up the windpipe and create an obstruction. This problem will worsen with age, sedation, alcohol consumption, and the effects of other substances. Controlling what gets put into your body can help in this situation. The last major cause is as simple as any kind of congestion in the body blocking the airways. This can occur in a variety of ways ranging from having the common cold, to regular smoking habits. When several causes of sleep apnea are combined, the condition can worsen.
There are three different types of sleep apnea that one could suffer from. These different types include central, obstructive, and complex sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome is the most common type, being the type diagnosed in 85% of cases. It is the basic blockage of the airflow into the body as described previously. When soft tissue in the back of the throat relaxes during sleep, causing greater blockage, the airflow into the body is restricted. Central sleep apnea syndrome is much less common, affecting less than one percent of sleep apnea cases. Someone is diagnosed with central sleep apnea when the central nervous system is functioning abnormally. This happens when the brain fails to send signals to the body's muscles that control its breathing. The final type is complex sleep apnea, which is simply a combination of the other two types and affects around 14% of those diagnosed with the condition.
To be properly diagnosed it is recommended to consult a physician where a sleep test will be administrated. The polysomnography test, or a simple sleep test will measure the body's blood pressure, brain activity, and oxygen levels in the bloodstream while it is in the different stages of sleep. Depending on which type of apnea the physician diagnoses, there are different treatments that go along with them.
There are a few treatments when it comes to curing sleep apnea. One common treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure machine. The CPAP machine's function is to keep the patient's airway open while they are sleeping to ensure the normal breathing functions are restored during sleep. The machine works by keeping a flow of pressurized air in the patient's throat through a mask connected to the CPAP machine. In more extreme cases, a BPAP machine will be used. It operates very much to the CPAP machine except that it facilitates the exhaling process along with the inhaling. This treatment is not always used, as these machines are expensive and reportedly very uncomfortable by patients who elect to use them. Surgical treatments also exists, although the operation is very dependent on the person's situation. The surgery involves removing whatever mass is blocking the airways or fixing the physiological abnormality causing the patient to have trouble breathing.
Apart from the cost CPAP machine and surgery, there are a few options to help alleviate sleep apnea symptoms. Lifestyle changes are first and foremost. Weight loss paired with the reduced intake of alcohol, smoking, sedatives, sleeping pills, and narcotics can help control the effects of the condition. Research is underway for some new options including trying to use a tongue shocking devise to keep throttles more tense. As stated earlier, the over-relaxation of tongue and throat muscles is one of the biggest causes. A simple change in sleeping position can also help the condition. This will include the elevation of your head and torso. It is important to raise the entire torso. Raising the head only will compound the problem. Angling the head from the torso only closes the windpipe more restricting more air from entering the body. When the body is elevated from the waist up, you reduce how much the airway collapses to help control the apnea. Foam wedge pillows and adjustable base beds are two products that can help dramatically reduce a sleep apnea. Depending on the severity and the cause of the apnea, the treatment will be different. Consulting a physician to get treatments specifically tailored case by case is the best action to take to diagnose and help a sleep apnea.