Obstructive Sleep Apnea
What is Sleep Apnea?
We sleep for 8 hours which is one-third of 24 hours, this amounts to us sleeping 1/3 of our lifetime. There are 84 known sleep disorders and sleep apnea is the second most common sleep disorder after insomnia. Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder which results in changing patterns of sleep especially causing excessive sleepiness. Sleep apnoea leads to continuous start and stop of breathing cycle during sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common, is caused by a blockage of the airway during sleep.
Cause of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is also known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) in which there is OBSTRUCTION in the upper airway during SLEEP causing APNEA which is stoppage of breathing. There is a loss of muscle tone during sleep which causes the airway muscles becom floppy and the tongue to fall back. This leads to narrowing of the upper airway during sleep in everybody, but this can cause obstruction of the airway in some people especially those with a thick neck like obese people. Excessive respiratory efforts to overcome airway obstruction and a fall in oxygen level due to this obstruction awakens you from your sleep transiently. As you wake up transiently from sleep, the airway opens to make you comfortable, and you fall asleep again. But as soon as you sleep the cycle repeats and the whole night is disturbed, making you feel sleepy, tired, and fatigued the next day causing a lack of concentration and irritability. In extreme situations, this can lead to automobile accidents in case you have sleep apnea, and you drive.
Risks of Sleep Apnea
During sleep apnea, as your oxygen falls and sleep is disturbed, there is a worsening of the control of your blood pressure and diabetes. People with sleep apnea also tend to gain weight as they feel hungrier due to increased secretion of the hunger hormone, Ghrelin and lack of the satiety hormone, leptin. This creates a vicious cycle of obesity causing sleep apnea and sleep apnea worsening obesity.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, unable to stay asleep, morning headache, feeling of irritability, having a dry mouth after waking up, gasping for breath during sleep and most importantly excessive day time sleepiness or tiredness.
Loud snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea, however not everyone who snores loud suffers from sleep apnea.
Management of Sleep apnoea .
As there are sleep disorders there are sleep specialists too to diagnose and treat these disorders. A sleep test called polysomnography conducted under a sleep specialist care will help you make the diagnosis of sleep apnea. The good news is that sleep apnea is fully treatable with multiple interventions which include dental devices and the application of a device called positive airway pressure (PAP) which pushes air and relives the obstruction during sleep with air pressure. This is considered as the most effective and reliable way of treating and coping with sleep apnea.
For mild sleep apnea cases, you may just make some lifestyle modifications such as losing weight can help cure sleep apnea in some patients and quitting smoking. Surgical interventions like bariatric surgery for losing weight and upper airway sleep apnea surgeries can also offer a cure in selected patients but the gold standard treatment remains the PAP device. With obesity becoming an epidemic, sleep apnea cases are bound to increase, and awareness about this disease is a necessary to break the cycle and halt its ill effects.