Sleep apnea causes a person's breathing to stop and start repeatedly, causing them to briefly wake up many times throughout the night. Sleep apnea is often associated with restlessness and loud snoring. It is this frequent waking that leads to daytime sleepiness and headaches.
Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea causes typically include:
- Physical obstructions, such as excessive fat stores or thickened tissue around the airways. This might restrict airflow, and cause loud snoring.
- Muscular changes or relaxing during sleep can cause the airways to collapse. When the tongue relaxes, it can cause the airway to narrow or fully close up.
- During sleep, the airway can become completely obstructed. The snoring will stop, and the individual may stop breathing for ten or more seconds. The brain will sense the apnea, and signal the muscles to tighten so normal airflow can return. This process can repeat hundreds of times during the night, causing daytime fatigue.
- Central sleep apnea is typically associated with underlying medical conditions, such as heart failure or strokes, pain relief medication or recent ascent to high altitude. With CSA, the neurological controls of breathing and rhythm malfunction.
Sleep Apnea Causes & Risk Factors
Several risk factors may cause sleep apnea, including:
- Smoking: Smoke irritates the throat, esophagus and lungs, causing fluid retention and inflammation in the upper airways, which impedes airflow.
- Alcohol: Frequent alcohol use causes the muscles to relax, especially during sleep.
- Age: Muscle tone weakens with age. When the muscles in the throat lose definition, they weaken and can collapse during sleep.
- Weight: Obesity is often directly linked to obstructive sleep apnea. Overweight people are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than those who maintain a healthy weight (BMI of less than 25). Excessive fatty tissues can build up in the throat and neck, leading to airflow restrictions in the upper respiratory system, pinching off or narrowing the airways.
- Enlarged adenoids or tonsils: Enlarged adenoids or tonsils in children (and some adults) can cause obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).
- Natural causes: It is possible that a person has an enlarged tongue that causes obstructive sleep apnea, and some people may be genetically predisposed to the condition.
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.