Symptoms and Causes of Sleep Apnea, and Treatments


Symptoms and Causes of Sleep Apnea, and Treatments.

Loud snoring, especially when accompanied by tiredness or exhaustion during the day, could be an indication of sleep apnea, a common but deadly breathing disorder. Here’s everything you need to know about it.

In the bedroom, a woman wears a CPAP machine to treat sleep apnea.

What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing is repeatedly interrupted while you are sleeping. These breathing pauses usually last 10 to 20 seconds and can occur anywhere between 5 and 100 times each hour.

During a sleep apnea episode, the shortage of oxygen jolts you awake—usually so briefly that you don’t remember it. However, because your natural sleep schedule has been disrupted, you are spending more time in light sleep and less time in the deep, restorative sleep that you need to be energetic, intellectually bright, and productive the next day.

Sleep apnea can cause a variety of health issues, even death in severe situations. As a result, it’s critical to take it seriously. If you or your bed partner suspects sleep apnea, schedule an appointment with your doctor right away.

Read also: How to Stop Snoring

Sleep apnea comes in a variety of forms.

The most prevalent type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (and is the primary focus of this article). When the muscles that support the soft tissues in the upper airway relax while sleeping, they impede the usual flow of air into and out of the nose and mouth. This frequently results in a lot of snoring and breathing problems.

The central nervous system is involved in central sleep apnea, which is a far less common type of sleep apnea. It happens when the brain ceases delivering instructions to the muscles that govern breathing for a short period. An underlying health problem is frequently to blame. Central sleep apnea patients seldom snort.

Complex sleep apnea, also known as mixed sleep apnea, is an uncommon combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Asleep apnea episode’s anatomy

The oxygen level in your blood reduces as airflow ceases during a sleep apnea episode. Your brain reacts by jolting you awake long enough to restart breathing, which usually begins with a gasp or choking sound. You won’t remember these awakenings if you have obstructive sleep apnea. You’ll rouse just enough to tighten your throat muscles and open your windpipe most of the time. You may be aware of your awakenings if you have central sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea symptoms and signs

Because the most noticeable symptoms only occur when you’re sleeping, it might be difficult to diagnose sleep apnea on your own.

However, you can get around this problem by having a bedmate watch your sleeping patterns or by recording yourself while sleeping. These are important sleep apnea warning indicators if pauses occur as you snore and are followed by choking or gasping.

The most common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are:

Snoring that is both frequent and loud

Daytime sleepiness and weariness, regardless of how much time you spend in bed Choking, snorting, or gasping

Other signs and symptoms

A dry mouth or a painful throat when you wake up

Headache in the morning

Insomnia, restless sleep, or nighttime awakenings

Shortness of breath when you wake up in the middle of the night

Getting up several times during the night to use the restroom


Is it snoring or sleep apnea?

Not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea, and not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea. How do you determine the difference between normal snoring and sleep apnea?

The most obvious indicator is how you feel during the day. Because normal snoring doesn’t interfere with the quality of your sleep as much as sleep apnea does, you’re less likely to feel tired and sleepy during the day. The way you snore gives you a lot of information. If you’re gasping, coughing, or producing other strange sounds while sleeping, you may have sleep apnea.

Even if you don’t have sleep apnea, a snoring problem can disrupt your bed partner’s sleep and negatively impact your sleep quality. There are, nevertheless, certain suggestions and therapies that can help you stop snoring.

Causes and risk factors for sleep apnea

While anyone can get sleep apnea, some variables make it more likely:

Men are far more prevalent than women to suffer sleep apnea, however, women’s incidence increases after menopause.

Sleep apnea can strike at any age, but it becomes more common as you get older. Its prevalence peaks in people’s 50s and 60s, according to the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, and subsequently plateaus.

Weight – Overweight people are more likely to have sleep apnea, while obese people are much more likely.

Anatomical distinctions – A tiny upper airway, a short or receding jaw, a lengthy soft palate, a high tongue position, a deviated septum, and enlarged tonsils and adenoids are all physical factors that might contribute to sleep apnea.

Smoking — According to a study conducted by the University of Wisconsin, Madison’s Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention, smokers are three times more likely than non-smokers to suffer from sleep apnea.

Men’s neck circumference must be greater than 17 inches (43.2 cm) and women’s neck circumference must be greater than 16 inches (40.6 cm).

Sleep apnea can be exacerbated by allergies or other medical disorders that produce nasal congestion and obstruction.

Causes and risk factors for central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea, like obstructive sleep apnea, is more common in men and persons over 65. Central sleep apnea, unlike obstructive sleep apnea, is frequently linked to catastrophic illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, neurological disease, or spinal or brainstem injury. When using positive airway pressure (PAP) devices to treat obstructive sleep apnea, some persons can develop central sleep apnea.

The health effects of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can cause daytime sleepiness, weariness, difficulties concentrating, forgetfulness, and an increased risk of accidents and errors in your regular tasks due to persistent sleep deprivation.

Sleep apnea has a psychological effect as well. It can produce irritation and moodiness, as well as anxiety and sadness. High blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, atrial fibrillation, and stroke are just a few of the significant health concerns it can cause.

Finding out if you have sleep apnea

You’ll need to consult a doctor, preferably a sleep medicine specialist, to find out if you have sleep apnea. They will assess your symptoms, gather information about your medical history, and do a sleep study.

Options for sleep studies

A polysomnogram, or sleep study, is considered the gold standard for diagnosing sleep apnea. It takes place at a hospital or sleep lab, where you’ll be linked up to sensors and monitored for the duration of the night (or sometimes for two partial nights). Many people can now be checked in the privacy of their own homes using portable monitors that measure heart rate, respiration, and blood oxygen levels while they sleep.


The number of breathing episodes you have per hour of sleep, as demonstrated by your sleep study, as well as symptoms like snoring and daytime tiredness, are used to diagnose sleep apnea.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine divides sleep apnea into mild, moderate, and severe categories based on how often you stop breathing:

5-15 breathing bouts per hour (mild)

15-30 breathing events per hour is considered moderate.

More than 30 breathing bouts per hour is considered severe.

Receiving a sleep apnea diagnosis might be frightening. The good news is that it can be treated. Treatment, for the most part, makes a huge difference in how people feel, both psychologically and physically.

Treatments for sleep apnea that are based on a person’s lifestyle

Lifestyle adjustments may be sufficient to treat minor cases of sleep apnea. If that’s the correct place to start, your doctor will let you know. Even if you’re on a medical treatment plan, the modifications listed below can help you sleep better and lessen your sleep apnea episodes.

Reduce your weight. Losing weight can have a huge impact if you are overweight. While it is rarely a complete cure, it can help you minimize the number of breathing episodes you have, lower your blood pressure, and sleep less during the day. Even a tiny amount of weight loss can alleviate sleep apnea symptoms and open up your throat.

Exercise. Even if exercise does not result in weight loss, it can help you sleep better and have more energy during the day by reducing sleep apnea breathing episodes. Aerobic activity, resistance training, and yoga are all terrific options for strengthening and enhancing the muscles in your airways.

Sleep on your side if possible. The worst position for sleep apnea is lying on your back since it forces your jaw, tongue, and other soft tissues to slip back toward your throat, restricting your airway. Sleeping on your stomach isn’t much better, because sleeping face down or twisting your head to the side both make it difficult to breathe. On the other hand, lying on your side keeps your airway open. Countered side pillows or body pillows may help if you find side sleeping uncomfortable or if you tend to roll onto your back after falling asleep.

Alcohol, anti-anxiety medications, and other sedatives should be avoided, especially before bedtime, because they relax the muscles of the throat and make breathing difficult. Benzodiazepines (such as Xanax, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan), antihistamines (such as Benadryl, Claritin), opiates (such as morphine, codeine, Vicodin, Percocet), and sleeping medications fall into this category.

Symptoms and Causes of Sleep Apnea, and Treatments.

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