Types, Causes, and Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that occurs when your breathing stops and starts as you sleep. The most common sign of sleep apnea is snoring, but sometimes not everyone that snores has sleep apnea. Sometimes snoring could stem from nose or throat conditions or sleep style. If sleep apnea goes untreated, it may result in high blood pressure and heart problems. The good news is that Matthew W. Shawl MD offers treatment to ease your symptoms and prevent complications such as heart problems and metabolic syndrome. Below are the types and causes of sleep apnea.

Types of sleep apnea

  •         Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea; it occurs when the soft tissues at the back of your throat relax as you sleep, partially or completely obstructing airflow. When the throat muscles block or narrow your airways, oxygen levels in your blood decrease since you can’t get enough air. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and arouses you from sleep to reopen your airways. You may start breathing with a choke, loud gasps, or jerking your body; this interferes with your sleep. The awakening happens so fast for you to notice, and it can occur up to 30 times in an hour, impairing your ability to reach deep, restful phases of sleep.

  •         Central sleep apnea

Central sleep apnea is a less common form of sleep apnea; it occurs due to issues in your respiratory control center. There is no airway blockage for this type of sleep apnea; instead, your brain does not signal your muscles to breathe. People with neuromuscular diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis are more likely to have central sleep apnea.

Complex sleep apnea, also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a condition whereby you have central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Risk factors for sleep apnea

Sleep apnea can affect adults and children, but certain factors put you at risk of this sleep disorder. Examples include:

  • A narrowed airway. Some people inherit a narrow throat, but airways can also become narrow when tonsils or adenoids enlarge.
  • Excess weight. When you are obese, fat deposits around your upper airways obstruct your breathing. Losing extra pounds can help reduce your risk of sleep apnea and other health problems such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
  • Gender. Sleep apnea is two to three times more prevalent in men than women; however, the risk in women rises after menopause.
  • Age. Older adults are more likely to develop sleep apnea than the younger population.
  • Smoking. You are three times more likely to have sleep apnea if you smoke; smoking causes inflammation and swelling in your upper airways.
  • Medical conditions. High blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, and Parkinson’s disease increase your risk of sleep apnea.

When should I see a doctor?

Talk to your doctor if you have signs and symptoms of sleep apnea, such as loud snoring, morning headache, awakening with a dry mouth, insomnia, excessive daytime sleepiness, and irritability. Without medical intervention, sleep apnea can cause complications such as high blood pressure, liver problems, and sleep-deprived patterns.

If you snore loudly, visit your doctor at Matthew W. Shawl, MD, for diagnosis to establish if you have sleep apnea.