The Causes, Effects and Treatments for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs while a person is sleeping. A person who experiences this condition stops breathing for a short period of time while sleeping. The interruption in breathing happens anywhere from dozens to over a hundred times during the night. Each interruption in breathing deprives the body of oxygen that could have detrimental effects. It also reduces the quality of sleep. Most people who are experiencing sleep apnea snore very loudly through the night. The condition occurs primarily in men because of certain biological factors.

There are two distinct types of sleep apnea. Both result in the same interruption in breathing. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by something in the airways that is actively blocking the flow of oxygen. This obstruction could be an inflamed area due to allergies, a portion of soft tissue that has dropped into the airway or a physical abnormality. Central sleep apnea is caused by the nervous system. The brain is unable to send properly timed signals to the body to breathe. This results in periods where the person does not inhale. Both central and obstructive sleep apnea can occur suddenly in individuals who have undergone medical treatments or who have been through a recent trauma.

CPAP machine

Sleep apnea has the potential to cause a number of detrimental effects in the body. The most serious problems could occur because of the lack of oxygen reaching the lungs. This reduces the oxygen in the blood and makes the formation of plaque in the arteries more likely. This could eventually result in an increased risk for a stroke or heart attack. A person who stops breathing for too long could have a heart attack or stroke immediately because of the lack of oxygen to the heart and brain. The condition also reduces alertness and mental acuity the next day because the body is unable to achieve a persistent state of restful sleep.

There are several sleep apnea treatments available. One of the most common is continual positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy. This involves wearing a mask at night that gently blows air into the nose and mouth in order to prevent obstructions. Other individuals respond positively to oxygen therapy that introduces more oxygen into the body through a mask during sleep.

People who do not respond to CPAP therapy might be prescribed a special device that physically changes the shape of the airways in the mouth and nose at night to prevent a blockage. The most intense type of treatment involves surgery that removes the soft tissues that are causing the obstruction. Anyone who is suffering from central sleep apnea must often receive treatment for related medical problems in order to relieve the condition.