Causes, symptoms, and therapy for sleep apnea

Causes, symptoms, and therapy for sleep apnea


 Patients with sleep apnea experience frequent breathing pauses while sleeping. You can learn more about how the syndrome develops and what you can do about it here.

What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Sleep apnea (apnea = Greek for "windlessness," also known as "sleep apnea syndrome") is characterized by nighttime pauses in breathing. Heavy snoring is one of the most common symptoms. Usually, the patient is unaware of his or her sleep apnea; it is the partners who are aware of the individual breath interruptions, which last between ten and thirty seconds. Because sleep apnea can cause secondary disorders such as high blood pressure and, most importantly, makes individuals fatigued, it is important to treat it.

It should undoubtedly be addressed, perhaps with the use of a special breathing mask at night.

What are the dangers of sleep apnea syndrome?

Stopped breathing sets up an alert in the brain and throughout the body. As a result of this, the following occurs:

  • The heart rate has risen.
  • Blood pressure has risen.
  • The vegetative nerve system (VNS) is triggered.

Obstructive and Central Sleep Apnea: Causes and Risk Factors

In medicine, there are two types of sleep apnea, each of which has its own set of symptoms and causes:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleep apnea that

The more prevalent of the two types, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs when the upper airway collapses during sleep. The cause is a malfunction of the nerves that control/activate the muscles in the throat at night, as well as various inciting circumstances: the cause is a malfunction of the nerves that control/activate the muscles in the throat at night. Factors that elicit a reaction include:

  • Obesity is one of the risk factors for sleep apnea, a condition that affects many overweight people. Prof. Fietze notes, "Obesity causes snoring and breathing difficulties due to tiny fat deposits in the throat and increased neck girth, although it is rarely the primary cause."
  • When the muscles in the throat relax, the base of the tongue relaxes as well. As a result, the tongue plays a critical role in momentarily blocking the airway in the supine posture.
  • Excessive muscular relaxation: Certain stimulants, such as pharmaceuticals, cigarettes, narcotics, or alcohol, might promote sleep apnea by increasing muscle relaxation.
  • Anatomical traits such as a strongly sunken lower jaw or massive tonsils increase breathing resistance and narrow the throat.

The respiratory muscles continue to receive orders from the brain to take a breath even after the airway has shrunk. The muscles, on the other hand, are insufficient to transport the air through the blocked airways. There is a halt in breathing, and the body is depleted of oxygen at that time. As a result, the oxygen level in the blood drops, and carbon dioxide builds up in the blood, tissues, and brain. In the latter, this automatically sets off an alarm. An alarm stimulation prompts the body to increase its activity immediately, causing it to suddenly

Central sleep apnea is a type of obstructive sleep apnea

Only roughly one out of every ten cases of sleep apnea are classified as central sleep apnea, which is caused by a cardiovascular ailment such as heart failure or a stroke and is caused in the brain. The respiratory control center in the brain does not send an urge to breathe in this circumstance. The brain sends a fresh respiratory impulse only when the amount of unexhaled carbon dioxide in the blood reaches a crucial level. Cheyne-Stokes breathing occurs when certain patients' breathing is very shallow before they stop breathing.

With age, the chances of getting central sleep apnea increase. It is estimated that one out of every four people is affected.

Is it necessary for me to see a sleep lab if I believe I have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea may typically be checked at home if it is suspected. The patient is given certain measuring instruments by the doctor for this reason, which record all information on breathing and pauses in breathing, pulse, blood oxygen content, and body position. Polygraphy is the term for this type of measurement, and it is frequently enough to make an initial diagnosis.

The doctor may also refer the affected person to a sleep laboratory for a more extensive examination or to confirm the diagnosis of sleep apnea syndrome, where the so-called polysomnography is done. The inspections are more thorough than the measurements taken at home, yet

Therapy: How can sleep apnea be treated?

Sleep apnea is usually treated individually, depending on its form, different types of therapy can be used. The following treatment methods can be used:

Breathing mask: At night, the special breathing mask is worn. Room air is blasted into the nose (or nose and mouth) with the help of a device connected by a breathing tube, and so into the throat and lungs, preventing the closure of the upper airways and hence breathing difficulties. In most cases, the patient learns how to properly utilize the mask in the sleep laboratory.
Reducing excess weight: In obstructive sleep apnea, losing weight can assist to at least ease the apnea, if not completely eliminate it.

Devices that prevent the supine position: Only if sleep apnea occurs almost exclusively in the supine position will devices that sound an alarm when the sleeper tries to turn onto his or her back help. For this purpose, it may be enough to sew a tennis ball into the back of the pajamas. Recommended only for otherwise good sleepers. 
Sleep with your upper body elevated: It's simpler to keep the tongue from slipping into the throat or fluid from flowing into the neck area if you sleep with your upper body elevated. This is also a possible treatment for mild sleep apnea.
Bite splints: Specially designed bite splints can help prevent sleep apnea in mild and moderate cases.
Stimulants should be avoided. Alcohol and cigarettes are examples of typical stimulants.
Change of medicine: If your medication causes sleep apnea, speak with your doctor about whether there are any other options.

Surgery for sleep apnea: How useful is this therapy?
If sleep apnea has anatomical causes, surgery may be considered, depending on the case, says Prof. Fietze: "If the tongue is low and the soft palate including the uvula relevantly constrict the airway, minimally invasive surgery is sometimes useful. It is indicated if, in addition, the tonsils are significantly enlarged." In some patients, a so-called tongue pacemaker can also be used to stimulate the nerve that controls the tongue muscles. This keeps the airway open at night.

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