Understanding the different aspects of sleep apnea

Understanding the different aspects of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. It is characterized by repetitive obstruction in breathing while asleep or even the cessation of breathing. Treating the condition is possible, but the problem lies in the diagnosis of it. Estimatedly, a large number of patients frequently go undiagnosed, making it vital for one to be aware of the causes and signs of the condition.


The condition is divided into three categories: obstructive, central, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. The first is caused by the relaxation of throat muscles, and the second occurs when the brain fails to send the right message to the muscles. Complex sleep apnea syndrome, however, is a combination of the first two. The signs and symptoms of the three are mostly the same and are as given below.

  • Shortness of breath
  • Repeated interruptions in breathing while asleep
  • Day fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Loud snoring
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up abruptly


  • Obesity

Obesity is one of the leading causes of sleep apnea. The fat depositions in the respiratory tract make it narrower. This leads to difficulty in breathing, resulting in the sleeping disorder over time.

  • Anatomy

Obstructive sleep apnea can also be caused by the position or size of certain parts of the anatomy. For example, people with thick necks tend to have narrow airways. Similarly, the characteristics of one’s jaw, tongue, tonsils, and neck can cause obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Family history

Sleep apnea can be a hereditary condition in some people. Additionally, it is more common in those belonging to the senior category.

  • Smoking

Heavy smokers tend to have inflamed upper respiratory tracts that retain fluid. This may cause obstructive breathing.

  • Nasal blockage

Nasal blockage can cause difficulty in breathing, leading to obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Sleeping on the back

Although it is a common sleeping position, lying on the back for hours may cause the airways to collapse. This can lead to the development of obstructive sleep apnea, snoring, or restlessness in some.

  • Medical conditions

Pre-existing medical conditions or complications such as cardiac conditions, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and high blood pressure can increase one’s risk of developing sleep apnea.


The treatment plan of the condition is based upon the severity of it. Most traditional remedial methods include the use of respiratory assistance, implants, or nerve stimulators. When lifestyle changes do not help adequately, one of these methods is employed to help one recover from the sleep disorder.

  • CPAP

A Continuous Airway Pressure Device (CPAP) can prove to be beneficial in moderate to severe cases of sleep apnea. The air pressure delivered via the mask is marginally greater than the normal air pressure of the surroundings. The machine is used when the patient is asleep, resulting in open airways and uninterrupted sleep.

  • Airway pressure devices

Some find the pressure of CPAP uncomfortable; in such cases, alternative devices can be employed. Some airway pressure devices adjust the air pressure automatically when the patient is asleep, benefiting the condition and keeping them comfortable.

  • Surgery

Surgery for sleep apnea patients is used as a last resort when all other treatment options fail. The surgery suggested by the doctor may vary based on the cause and condition of the patient. Usually, the various procedures that can take place include tissue shrinkage, tissue removal, nerve stimulation, implants, jaw repositioning, and tracheostomy.

Natural remedies

The alternative methods of treating sleep apnea can be just as effective as the traditional ones. One major benefit of these natural remedies is that the patient does not have to endure the discomfort that accompanies invasive procedures. Some effective remedies include:

  • Weight management
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Adjusting sleeping positions
  • Regular exercise
  • Yoga
  • Abstaining from drinking and smoking
  • Use of air humidifiers