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Most people have already heard about sleep apnea but don’t know how to define it precisely. Well, experts say that sleep apnea is defined as the cessation of breathing during sleep.

The fact is that apnea specialists agree that there are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Of these three, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. Not too many people know that inability to fall a sleep is also considered as a part of this sleep disorder, because insomnia is one of the common sleep apnea patient’s complaints.

Experts estimate that about 18 million Americans have sleep apnea. Men and people who are over 40 years old are more likely to have sleep apnea, but it can affect anyone at any age.

Types of sleep apnea

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea

This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is important to know that obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repetitive pauses in breathing during sleep. All this is due to the obstruction or collapse of the upper airway. Reasonably, breathing pauses are usually accompanied by a reduction in blood oxygen saturation, and followed by an awakening to breathe.
  1. Central Sleep Apnea

This is a bit more serious type of apnea because Central Sleep Apnea is defined as a neurological condition characterized by cessation of all respiratory effort during sleep, usually with decreases in blood oxygen saturation. The fact is that if the brainstem center controlling breathing shuts down there's no respiratory effort and no breathing and what happens: the person is aroused from sleep by an automatic breathing reflex, so may end up getting very little sleep at all. Several researches have proven that this pattern can repeat itself 20 to 30 times or more each hour, all night long. The consequences are clear- these disruptions impair a person’s ability to reach those desired deep, restful phases of sleep, and he or she will probably feel sleepy during normal waking hours.
Important thing to know about this disorder is that it has a neurogical background and it is very different in cause than the previous type, which is a physical blockage - though the effects are highly similar.
  1. Mixed apnea

Mixed sleep apnea, as the name suggests, is a combination of the previous two. An episode of mixed sleep apnea usually starts with a central component and then becomes obstructive in nature. Generally the central component of the apnea becomes less troublesome once the obstructive apnea is treated.

Cardinal symptoms

  • Fatigue and tiredness during the day.
  • Loud snoring accompanied with choking sounds
Other common features are:
  • Obesity
  • Small jaw, thick neck
  • High blood pressure
  • Restless sleep
  • Depressed mood and irritability
  • Reduced sex drive and impotence
  • Snorting, gasping, choking during sleep
  • Insomnia
Not as commonly reported but may be present:
  • Feeling that sleep is strangely unrefreshing
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • A dry mouth upon awakening
  • Excessive perspiration during sleep
  • Heartburn
  • Rapid weight gain
  • Morning headaches
  • Change in personality
  • Memory lapses
  • Intellectual deterioration
  • Frequent nocturnal urination
  • Confusion and severe grogginess upon awakening
  • Large tonsils and adenoids

Possible causes

Well, everyone knows that in normal conditions the muscles of the upper part of the throat keep this passage open to allow air to flow into the lungs. It is proven that some individuals have a narrower passage, and during sleep, relaxation of these muscles causes the passage to close, and air cannot get into the lungs. Of course- this leads to the loud snoring and labored breathing occur. Although no one really knows why is this happening, but in deep sleep, breathing can stop for a period of time and these periods of lack of breathing are followed by sudden attempts to breathe. What is the result? Well, the result is fragmented sleep that is not restful, leading to excessive daytime drowsiness.

Risk factors

It is proven that older obese men seem to be at higher risk, though as many as 40% of people with obstructive sleep apnea are not obese. Of course, some physical predispositions such as nasal obstruction, a large tongue, a narrow airway and certain shapes of the palate and jaw seem also to increase the risk. Most recent studies have also suggested that a large neck or collar size is strongly associated with obstructive sleep apnea. Ingestion of alcohol or sedatives before sleep may predispose to episodes of apnea.

Treatment of sleep apnea

Mild sleep apnea is usually treated by some behavioral changes. Losing weight, sleeping on your side are often recommended.  
  • Therapies

Continuous positive airway pressure is one very good therapeutic machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over patient’s nose while asleep.  
There is also one another option- wearing an oral appliance designed to keep throat open is very good method
  • Surgery or other procedures

Important thing to know is that the goal of surgery for sleep apnea is to remove excess tissue from nose or throat that may be vibrating and causing a patient to snore. These parts of tissue can also blocking upper air passages and causing sleep apnea. Surgical options may include: Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) , Maxillomandibular advancement and Tracheostomy!
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