What is Sleep Apnea?
Author: MySleep

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Sleep apnea is very a common sleep disorder. It can be potentially serious, as it affects your breathing while you sleep. If your partner complains about your snoring or you wake up with a headache and feel tired and irritable all day, it is possible that you suffer from sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is characterised by the fact that your breathing stops and starts repeatedly while you are asleep, and can lead to a variety of serious life-threatening complications, such as:

  • Heart problems or high blood pressure
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Liver problems
  • Medication and surgery complications
  • and sleep deprived partners.

What causes Sleep Apnea?

People who suffer from sleep apnea often snore loudly, and tend to feel tired despite sleeping between 7 to 9 hours per night.

Obstructive sleep apnea

During obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax, thus obstructing the airways when you inhale.

The muscles at the back of the throat support your soft palate, the uvula (small triangular tissue that hangs from the soft palate), the tongue, the side walls of the throat, and the tonsils.

When the airways are obstructed and you don't get enough oxygen, your blood-oxygen levels may drop. This will alert your brain, and you will briefly awaken in order to open your airway. Because you awaken so briefly, you won't even remember it.

However, you may also gasp, snort or choke. It's not unusual for a person to repeat this pattern between five and thirty times per hour, all night long. This will prevent you from enjoying adequate, restful and refreshing sleep.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea.  A sleep consultant from MySleep can advise you on the process to get tested. Note that you will require a referral from your treating healthcare practitioner.

Certain risk factors could increase your likelihood of suffering from sleep apnea, including:

  • Being male makes a person three times more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.
  • Being an adult increases your risk, especially for women after menopause.
  • A family history of snoring plays a role in your risk factor for sleep apnea.
  • Obesity, whereby fat deposits surrounding the upper airway may obstruct your breathing.
  • A bigger neck circumference may indicate narrower airways.
  • Narrowed airways combined with enlarged adenoids and tonsils can block airways.
  • Using narcotic pain medications, tranquilizers, sedatives, or alcohol causes the throat muscles to relax, which can worsen sleep apnea.
  • Smoking increases the fluid retention and inflammation in your upper airways, increasing your risk factor by three times.
  • Suffering from nasal congestion or other breathing issues in your nose due to allergies or anatomical problems can cause you to suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Suffering from congestive heart failure or having had a stroke can increase your risk of sleep apnea.

Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send adequate messages to the respiratory system. The brain fails to signal your respiratory muscles to breathe, so your body makes no effort to breathe for a moment. You might wake up feeling short of breath, or you might have a hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include episodes during which you snore loudly or stop breathing while your asleep. These symptoms will typically be reported by someone who has observed you sleeping.

You may also experience:

  • difficulty sleeping through the night (insomnia)
  • excessive sleepiness during the day (hypersomnia)
  • difficulty focusing during the day
  • waking up gasping for air during the night
  • waking up with a dry mouth
  • waking up with a headache
  • irritability

It is important to note that not every person who has sleep apnea will necessarily snore. Speak to your healthcare practitioner about your symptoms, or contact MySleep for further information.

How to treat Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea treatment depends on the causes and risk factors. Careful attention must be paid to risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. Weight management can help relief the level of obstruction in the airways.

Treatment options include:

Sleep apnea machines, such as:

  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP),
  • Auto-Adjusting Positive Airway Pressure (APAP)
  • or Bi-Level Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)

Oral devices and surgical intervention may provide suitable interventions in certain cases.

MySleep specialises in sleep and fatigue management and supplies a wide range of sleep apnea machines, masks and devices along with practical advice to help you wake up refreshed.

Please do not hesitate to contact us, should you need advice or help with sleep apnea.


Normal Airway -

Normal Airway

Obstructive Sleep Apnea - During obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax, thus obstructing the airways when you inhale.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

During obstructive sleep apnea, the throat muscles relax, thus obstructing the airways when you inhale.

These articles might also be of interest to you:

1. How to help loved ones deal with sleep apnea 585
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2. What causes Sleep Apnea? 223
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3. Sleep Apnea Treatments and Remedies 221
Author: MySleep    Date: 19 January 2019

4. Sleep Apnea Symptoms 218
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Disclaimer: This information is for education purposes only and is intended to answer some of the frequently encountered questions about the meaning of ‘Sleep Apnea’.
If you have any questions regarding the information contained on this website please contact your physician.

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