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What Is Sleep Apnea?

Nov 30, 2018sleep apnea

You might find snoring is a joke or something to make fun of others but in fact; it is a real serious problem that cause your breath to become shallow or even stop completely. This pause in breathing (Apnea) can last to more than 10 seconds and it occurs up to 30 times per hour. Unfortunately, you are not aware of the apneas, all you can feel is being tired and exhausted all the day.

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology 2013, sleeping apnea affects 14% of males and 5% of females and it is estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and 80% of the cases that have moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea were left undiagnosed.

Types of sleeping apneas:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Central sleep apnea.
  • Complex sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea

The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea in adults is excess weight and obesity as it is more associated with more relaxation of tongue and throat, this relaxation cause the airway to become blocked.

In addition, there are other causes of obstructive sleep apnea as:

Having a large neck size (17 inches or more in males and 16 inches or more in females), having large tongue and tonsils especially when the jaw bone is relatively small, having a family history of sleep apnea or having nasal obstruction due to sinus problems or deviated septum or due to smoking.

In children, obstructive sleep apnea is more associated with syndromes that causes enlargement of the tongue, adenoids and tonsils as Down syndrome or syndromes where the child has a small jaw as Pierre-Robin syndrome. In addition, childhood obesity can cause obstructive sleep apnea but of course, it is more a common cause in adults.

Central sleep apnea

It is less common than obstructive sleep apnea but it is more dangerous. It occurs because the brain does not send proper signals to the respiratory muscles to control the breath.

The cause varies with the cause of central sleep apnea you have.

Cheyne-Stokes breathing.This type of central sleep apnea is commonly associated with congestive heart failure. As It leads to gradual increase and decrease in breathing effort and airflow and during the weakest breathing effort, a total block of airflow (central sleep apnea) can occur.

Drug-induced apnea.Taking certain medications such as opioids, oxycodone or codeine sulfate the breathing to become irregular, increase and decrease in a regular pattern, or temporarily stop completely.

Complex sleep apnea.

It is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apneas as some people with obstructive sleep apnea develop central sleep apnea while using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) for their sleep apnea treatment.

Signs and symptoms of sleeping apnea that can affect your daily life:


  • Very loud snoring, it is less common in central sleep apnea.
  • Observed episodes of stop or abnormal breathing and regular awaking during night.
  • Dry mouth that increase the risk of having caries and periodontal diseases.
  • Headache and difficulty in concentration during the day.
  • Excessive daytime sleeping and difficulty in sleeping during night.
  • Mood changes as depression and anxiety.


What makes sleeping apnea a serious disease that it is often under diagnosed and if it is left without treatment. The repeated awakenings associated with sleep apnea make normal sleeping impossible. People with central sleep apnea often complains severe fatigue, daytime drowsiness and anxiety.

It can cause many health problems as hypertension and irregular heartbeats. It can drop the oxygen level in the blood leading to higher risk of heart failure.


Treatment of sleeping apnea.

Treatment of sleeping apnea can varies from certain changes in lifestyle up to having surgeries.

You may treat mild sleep apnea by the following:

  • Decrease your weight.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Sleep on your side instead of your back.
  • Avoid sleeping pills, opioids and alcohol.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

For moderate to severe sleep apnea, it is recommended to have Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP).
It delivers air pressure through a mask while you sleep. The air pressure is relatively greater than that of the surrounding air and is just enough to keep your upper airway passages open, preventing apnea and snoring.

Although CPAP is the most common and reliable method for treating sleeping apneas, some people find it uncomfortable.


Oral/Dental Appliance

Oral sleep apnea treatment devices prevent the airway from being blocked by holding the tongue in position or by sliding the patient’s jaw forward so patients can breathe while they are sleeping.



It is the most common option to reduce or eliminate the extra tissue in your throat that blocks and prevent the airway during sleeping.

Some surgeries may be minimally invasive but the others can be more complex. Surgeries includes one of the following areas:

  • Soft palate and uvula.
  • Tonsils and adenoids.
  • Upper and lower jaw.

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