A condition that causes disturbances in breathing activity while sleeping is referred to as sleep apnea. It is a feeling of breathlessness that can disrupt a good night’s sleep. In this condition, when a person is sleeping, breathing involuntarily stops and resumes again after a brief amount of time. It is just a matter of few seconds before the breathing process returns back to normal. However, this respiratory problem in which breathing stops and restarts can recur several times during sleep. There have been cases wherein breathing disruptions have occurred more than 30 – 40 times within an hour. These are considered severe cases of sleep apnea and require urgent treatment. Loud snoring, morning headache, and waking up suddenly as a response to troubled breathing at night, are some of the most common sleep apnea symptoms in adults. In order to correct this problem, understanding sleep apnea causes is essential, which is discussed below:
Sleep Apnea Causes
What causes sleep apnea? What are the factors that aggravate sleep apnea symptoms in children and adults? Research suggests that overweight people or those who smoke or drink frequently and are susceptible to breathing problems while sleeping. It is discussed below:
Throat Muscles Relax
This is one of the most common sleep apnea causes in which the airways that promote the free flow of air in and out of the lungs, are blocked temporarily. As we all know, just at the beginning of the throat lies the soft palate. The soft plate typically holds the uvula, a triangular movable, fleshy mass of tissue. Facing the mirror and opening the mouth wide open, one will be able to see this uvula, attached to the soft palate. It is observed that the soft palate is connected to the throat muscles. The main job of the soft palate is to prevent food from entering the airways during meals. When the throat muscles relax during inhalation, the soft palate attached to the throat muscles moves downwards and may either narrow or completely block the airways. In either case, breathing becomes extremely difficult. As inhaled air is the only source of oxygen supply to the body, the brain has no option but to disturb your sleep. Thus, you may wake up suddenly gasping for breath. Eventually, a normal breathing pattern is restored. This condition resulting from relaxation of throat muscles is referred to as obstructive sleep apnea. However, the duration of obstructive sleep apnea episodes is so small that the person might be completely unaware of his trouble breathing problems at night. People who are overweight and obese have excess fat in the neck. This surplus fatty tissue reduces the width of the airways, eventually giving rise to sleep apnea symptoms in women and children.
Disturbances in Brain Signals
It is a known fact that the process of breathing that involves inhaling oxygen and expelling carbon dioxide is controlled by the brain. When it comes to moving muscles, the brain has to send electrical signals in that part of the body to initiate movement. The movement of breathing muscles is regulated by this electrical activity of the brain. However, a momentary disturbance in electrical activity can make the brain unable to direct signals to the breathing muscles. This causes breathing difficulty and eventually awakens the person from his sleep. This sleeping disorder arising from the inability of the brain to transmit signals at the right place is known as central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Effects
After knowing what sleep apnea causes, let’s discuss its effects. A recent study shows that sleep apnea causes weight gain. Thus, people suffering from sleep apnea may experience unexplained weight gain. Medical evidence has also proved that sleep apnea causes high blood pressure. Research suggests that frequent episodes of sleep apnea in children and adults elevate the risk of hypertension. Studies indicate that patients with over 30 breathing interruptions every hour are at increased risk of high blood pressure.
Sleep Apnea Cures
What are the different options for sleep apnea cures? Treatment will depend on what type of sleep apnea the person is suffering from. Ascertaining sleep apnea causes is equally important to resolve the issue. For obstructive sleep apnea sufferers, decreasing weight and staying away from alcohol and smoking may help to stop episodes of disturbances in breathing activity while sleeping. In case, that doesn’t help to cure sleep apnea, one may have to use machines that prevent airways from getting closed. A mask attached to the machine is put on the patient’s nose. The machine releases to air, which then passes through the mask and eventually travels through the airways. The machine is then set to maintain a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) that does not allow the air passages to narrow. Correcting central sleep apnea causes that include neuromuscular disorders, often works to resolve this type of sleeping disorder.
This was all about sleep apnea symptoms and cures. A point to note is that, in case, CPAP masks to relieve obstructive sleep apnea causes do not provide any comfort to the patient, alternatives to CPAP also exist. Patients facing CPAP mask problems may be advised to undergo surgery. This method involves surgically cutting the excess tissue in the nose or throat that is obstructing the air from moving in and out of the lungs.
Tiffany is a Medical Student and also works as a fitness coach in part-time. She is also a writer and writes on health and fitness articles. Tiffany loves to engage with users and help them provide various useful information on General Health. She provides researched-based information and also featured on various blogs and magazines.