Visiting With The Right Doctor

Questions And Answers About Sleep Apnea

by Oona Laine

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder. However, if you have been recently diagnosed with the condition, you may not know much about it. Here are a few questions and answers about this disorder:

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing during periods of sleep. A person with sleep apnea has his or her airway blocked repeatedly by the tongue and soft issues of the mouth. This restricts the amount of air that the patient receives. Thus, people with sleep apnea are rarely able to get a good night's rest because they repeatedly wake up when their brain recognizes that oxygen levels are too low.

This oxygen deprivation-waking cycle may occur several times in a single night. Some people who have a severe case of sleep apnea may wake up over a hundred times during the night. As a result, people with sleep apnea often appear tired or sluggish during the day, even though they may not realize that they have awakened multiple times the night before.

Why does sleep apnea occur?

Sleep apnea occurs because the muscles at the back of the throat become too relaxed during periods of sleep. The relaxation of this tissue causes it to collapse into the patient's airway, temporarily blocking it until the person wakes up. In addition to the tissues of throat, the tongue can relax falling backwards into the throat area and reducing the amount of air that is received.

Why do people with sleep apnea often snore so loudly?

People with sleep apnea tend to snore because as tissues relax and narrow the airway, the soft issues of the throat can begin to vibrate due to the restricted area of airflow..

Are there other health ramifications associated with sleep apnea?

Over time, sleep apnea can affect other areas of the body. Several health conditions are associated with sleep apnea. Here are a few of them:

  • Hypertension
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Depression
  • Insulin resistance and diabetes

How is sleep apnea treated?

One of the most common ways to treat sleep apnea is through the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine. The CPAP machine emits a consistent current of air into the patient's airway to help him or her continue to breathe. This prevents the brain from waking due to oxygen deprivation. Still, this type of therapy is only temporary. Surgery provides a more long-term solution.

If you believe that you have sleep apnea, consult with a physician in your area.