Sleep apnea is a disorder that affects sleeping patterns, marked by repeated interruptions in breathing during one’s sleep or bedtime. It’s classified into obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Understanding more about the causal factors of the two types may help you avoid this crippling sleep disorder and become more energized, fit, and active.
How does sleep apnea develop, and what factors contribute to its development? The following are some of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea.
What Are The Causes of Sleep Apnea?
While both are under the umbrella term “sleep apnea,” they are caused by different factors, so sleep apnea clinics categorize them differently.
Let’s explore the differences between these two:
Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This type develops whenever the neck muscles tense and restrict the air passages while sleeping and is more frequent than central sleep apnea. The mechanism is responsible for snoring, and breathing problems, among other symptoms associated with this type. According to experts, it’s estimated to affect 4 to 9 percent of middle-aged adults and even higher for retirees.
The leading cause of this type of sleep apnea is obesity. People who are overweight have fat surrounding the larynx, which restricts breathing. Other likely reasons for obstructive sleep apnea, aside from obesity, are:
- Growing older
- Being a man (higher risk)
- Regular consumption of sleeping pills and alcohol
- Blockage in the nose
- Sleep apnea runs in the family (genetic)
- Some physical characteristics (thicker neck, constricted throat or larynx, swollen tonsils)
While some of these are under your control, others are not, e.g., smoking and alcohol.
Causes of Central Sleep Apnea
With this type, your brain cannot successfully send a message to the muscles responsible for normal breathing. This causes breathlessness or trouble getting to or staying asleep. Although less frequent, it also has some causative factors, such as obstructive sleep apnea. The following are some of the people most at risk of getting central sleep apnea:
- Senior citizens
- Men are at higher risk
- People who use methadone and other opioids often
- Patients with heart problems, such as congestive heart failure
- People who have suffered a stroke
Treatment For Sleep Apnea
Fortunately, there is a way to effectively treat the condition by adopting lifestyle changes and reducing any risks of cardiovascular disease or stroke risks. A definitive diagnosis from a primary care physician can be the first step to getting a good night’s sleep.
Contemplate getting an at-home insomnia test to assist your doctor in diagnosing sleep apnea and beginning the path to better overall health. Here are some things you could do to help treat sleep apnea:
If you think that you or someone you know might have sleep apnea, you should have a sleep study performed. These exams typically take your pulse rate, blood oxygenation, air circulation, and breathing patterns.
For irregular results, your specialist will be able to recommend treatment without requiring additional testing. However, because compact tracking devices do not always trace all instances of sleep apnea, your physician may still advise polysomnography even though your original results were clear.
Your health provider might suggest simple lifestyle changes like weight loss or cutting out drinking alcohol or cigarettes for minor cases. If you have nasal allergies or related complications, you might be advised on how to treat them. Let your doctor know if there’s no noted improvement in your symptoms, and they might suggest other treatments.
Healthier Sleeping Practises
If your sleep hygiene isn’t disciplined, this might be affecting how well you sleep. Ensure the room is dark when you sleep, and turn off any gadgets at least thirty minutes before bed. You might also be encouraged to:
- Sleep on your side, not your facing up
- Use a pillow to lift your head higher and prevent tongue slips that block your airway
- Invest in a humidifier to prevent dried airways
- Swirl with salty water to shrink your tonsils
- Avoid caffeine at least 2 hours before bedtime
- Don’t take sleeping pills as they relax your throat muscles
Another alteration is to make it to your whole day in general and not limit the changes to bedtime.
- Healthy weight loss through exercise and healthier eating habits
- Get nasal spray or strips to clear your sinuses
- Quit smoking which enhances breathing difficulties
Support Your Airways
If your air passage is weak and has softer, more delicate tissue surrounding your throat, your throat may close up while you’re sleeping. You can do a few exercises to help with tightening the muscles to strengthen them and prevent them from collapsing:
- Chewing gum or holding a pen in your mouth
- Push your tongue against your palate for a few minutes (3-5 minutes)
- Drag your cheek to the side with a pinky while resisting to build tension
- Inflate a couple of balloons
- Play an instrument like a trumpet or take up singing
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is a form of therapy used to treat intermediate to acute cases of sleep apnea. It uses a device that pushes air via a mask, increasing the pressure higher than the room pressure to keep your air passages clear. You’ll need to consult with your physician first before purchasing these.
Alternatively, you could resort to:
- Comparative airway pressure machines (auto CPAP or BiPAP)
- Oral devices to force your airway open
- Get any medical issues sorted (cardiovascular or neuro-related conditions)
- Invest in oxygen device supplements
- Consider ASVs (Adaptive servo-ventilation)
This is often the last resort if other less aggressive options aren’t effective. Often, other treatment options are given a minimum of three months to work before considering surgery. This is often an effective treatment for people with jaw structure complications.
Some of the surgical procedures are:
- Tissue extraction from the back of your mouth, throat, and tonsils
- Shrink the problematic tissue
- Jaw reconstruction to enlarge the space and prevent blockage
- Place implants into the top of your mouth
- Excite nerve tissue responsible for tongue movement to keep the air passage open
- Develop a separate air passageway (most extreme, fatal cases of sleep apnea) with a plastic tube through your throat
Knowing what you know now about the available treatment options, consult with your primary health physician on the best treatment for you.
As previously stated, determining the underlying reasons for your sleep apnea could be the step that finally helps you permanently eliminate it.