Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms, Test, And Treatments

cause of sleep apnea

Meaning of Sleep Apnea:

Sleep Apnea

Frequent interruptions in breathing or shallow, infrequent breaths cause apneas. With the brain sensing stoppages in regular patterns, it sends out a person’s natural response to use their muscles to gasp and resume breathing. The startle reflex is a continuous cycle during sleep that becomes counterproductive when some people are trying to get a good night’s sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious health condition that can lead to heart disease, diabetes, and other health problems if left untreated. This can cause snoring, restless sleep, and daytime fatigue.

Types Of Sleep Apnea:

Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type, accounting for more than 90% of cases. It occurs when the airway becomes blocked or narrowed during sleep, preventing air from flowing into the lungs. Central sleep apnea is less common, accounting for about 10% of cases. It occurs when the brain fails to send the correct signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Causes of Sleep Apnea:

Several factors can increase the risk of developing sleep apnea, including:

  • Obesity: People who are overweight are more likely to develop sleep apnea because excess fat around the neck can cause the airway to narrow. Excess weight can cause the airway to become narrowed and blocked.
  • Smoking: Cigarette smoking can damage the lungs and throat, making it more difficult to breathe at night. Cigarette smoke can irritate the airways and make them more likely to collapse during sleep.
  • Alcohol: Drinking alcohol can relax the muscles in the throat, making it more likely that they will collapse and cause a blockage during sleep. Heavy alcohol use can cause snoring and increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Age: The risk of sleep apnea increases as you get older, especially after age 40.
  • Nasal problems: Problems with the nose, such as a deviated septum, can cause difficulty breathing through the nose at night.
  • Medicines: Some medicines, such as sleeping pills and tranquilizers, can increase the risk of sleep apnea.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
  • Genetics: Sleep apnea may be passed down in families.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

The most common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Snoring: Many people with sleep apnea snore loudly and regularly.
  • Gasping or choking during sleep: Many people with sleep apnea have episodes where they stop breathing for a few seconds and then gasp or choke to resume breathing. This can cause them to wake up frequently during the night.
  • Daytime fatigue: People with sleep apnea often feel extremely tired during the day, even if they’ve slept for eight hours or more.
  • Irritability: People with sleep apnea may be more irritable than usual due to a lack of restful sleep.
  • Poor concentration: People with sleep apnea may have difficulty paying attention and concentrating on tasks.
  • Decreased sex drive: Men with sleep apnea may have a decreased sex drive due to fatigue and other health problems associated with sleep apnea.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea:

If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor will recommend treatment based on the severity of your condition. Treatment options include:

  • CPAP therapy: Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most common treatment for sleep apnea. It involves wearing a CPAP mask during sleep, which delivers pressurized air to the airways to keep them open.
  • Surgery: Surgery may be recommended if you have severe sleep apnea and cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. Surgery may involve removing the excess tissue from the throat or nasal passages or moving the jaw forward to create more space for the airway.
  • Oral appliances: Oral appliances are custom-made devices that fit in your mouth and hold your jaw in a slightly forward position. This can help keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Weight loss: If you are obese, losing weight may help improve your sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition that can cause interrupted breathing and poor sleep quality. The most common treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy, which involves wearing a CPAP mask during sleep to deliver pressurized air to the airways. Surgery and oral appliances may also be recommended for people with severe sleep apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. Losing weight if you are obese may also help improve your sleep apnea.

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