Sleep Apnea

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Overview

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep syndrome in which breathing stops and starts again, while the patient is asleep. Usually, the patient is unaware that they have this health condition and is often told by someone else that they stop breathing while asleep. This disease can be divided into two main categories:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (More common)
  • Central Sleep Apnea

Causes

Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs because the muscles at the back of the throat relax, and this narrows down the airway, and so the patient doesn’t get enough oxygen. The brain realizes this and wakes you up, so you can start breathing again. This can occur 5 – 30 times per hour throughout the night.

Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea occurs, because there is a problem in the transmission of signals from the brain to the respiratory muscles, and hence the patient temporarily stops breathing.

Symptoms

The symptoms for both types of sleep apnea are often similar, and can be listed as the following:

  • Loud snoring
  • Episodic breathing cessation during sleep (witnessed by someone else)
  • Abrupt awakening
  • Awakening with a dry mouth
  • Morning headache
  • Difficulty staying asleep (Insomnia)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Short attention span
  • Easy irritability

Diagnosis

The following tests can help the physician reach a diagnosis of this disorder:

  • Nocturnal polysomnography
  • Home sleep tests

Treatment

The treatment for sleep apnea is either surgery or using therapies that ensure that the patient receives a constant supply of oxygen. Some of the therapies are the following:

  • Continuous positive airway pressure
  • Expiratory positive airway pressure
  • Oral appliances that keep the throat open

Surgery is aimed to remove some tissue from the throat, so it doesn’t narrow down too much.

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