Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterised by interruption of breathing during sleep. Those with the condition who have not sought sleep apnea treatment can stop breathing during sleep, in most cases, hundreds of times during the night. When this happens, the brain, as well as the rest of the body may not get sufficient oxygen.
What are the 2 Main Types?
There are 2 main types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
This is considered the most common form of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by airway blockage that occurs when the soft tissue found at the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea
Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, the cause of central sleep apnea is not airway blockage. This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe because of instability in the respiratory control center.
Are You at Risk?
Nowadays, sleep apnea management can be easily done. However, not many people are aware they have the condition or if they are at risk. This may not be common knowledge but sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. Below are some of the factors that can put people at risk for sleep apnea:
- Gender (males are more likely to develop the condition compared to females)
- Being overweight
- Having a large neck size (16 inches or more in women and 17 increase or more in men)
- Being over 40 years of age
- Genetics (family history of sleep apnea)
- Having a large tongue or tonsils
- Having a small jaw bone
- Nasal obstruction secondary to allergies, sinus problems, or a deviated septum
What are the Possible Complications?
When left untreated, sleep apnea can increase a person’s risk of developing other health problems, including:
- Heart failure
- Heart attacks
- Irregular heart beats
- Worsening of ADHD
What are Some of the Common Symptoms?
- Waking up with a very dry or sore throat
- Lack of energy or excessive sleepiness during the day
- Loud snoring
- Waking up occasionally with a gasping or choking sensation
- Sleepiness when driving
- Headaches during the morning
- Restless sleep
- Mood changes
- Recurrent awakenings
- Restless sleep
How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?
People with symptoms of sleep apnea may be asked to undergo a sleep apnea test known as polysomnogram. This test can be done at home or at a sleep disorder center.
Also known as a sleep study, a polysomnogram is a multiple component test that will electronically transmit and record the patient’s specific physical activities while asleep. Results of the recordings are then analysed by a qualified sleep specialist. This is done to determine if the person has sleep apnea or another type of sleep disorder.
If diagnosed with sleep apnea, patients may be asked to undergo further testing to determine the best course of action and the best treatment option.
Other test to help check for sleep apnea include:
EEG (electroencephalogram) measures and records the brain wave activities.
ECG (electrocardiogram) records the heart rhythm and rate.
EMG (electromyogram) records muscle activities like leg movements, face twitches, and teeth grinding.
EOG (electro-oculogram) records eye movements. The movements are considered important when identifying different sleep stages, particularly REM.