What Is Sleep Apnea? Information to Help You Manage the Condition Better

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Sleep apnea is one of those health conditions that start simple but can quickly snowball into one of the worst types of disorders. It requires urgent medical attention or else, it turns fatal. The strangest thing about sleep apnea is that the condition remains undiagnosed and hence untreated for a long time. This is because most of the identifying symptoms appear when the individual is asleep. Hence more often than not, it takes the bed partner or roommate to first detect the sleep abnormalities that are typical sleep apnea symptoms and bring the patient to the doctors’ chamber.

But what is sleep apnea and from where does it originate? As strange as this may sound, the primary trigger for sleep apnea is neglected snoring. Snoring problems as we all know, is extremely common. In fact, according to British Medical Journal published data of 1997, 30% of those above 30 years of age snore and by the time they reach middle-age, this percentage rise to 40%. As far as gender bias is concerned, according to Vancouver Sleep and Breathing Center the ratio is 2:1 till of course women reach menopausal age, when the gap may narrow down substantially.

What is sleep apnea? Understanding the basics

Sleep apnea is one of the worst types of sleep disorders that happen primarily as a result of narrowing of the respiratory tract, due to obstructions. It is characterized by repeated pauses in breathing – and there could be between 5 to 30 such pauses in an hour, where a single pause lasts for about 10 seconds or more.

Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that results in major disruption in sleep. The victim sways between light and deep sleep depending on the pauses and shallowness of breathing. It is also a condition that affects obese people mostly.

Consequences of untreated sleep apnea

What could happen if you did not treat sleep apnea on time? Because of the serious paucity of supply of oxygen the condition creates, it is invariably associated with a host of ailments, many of which could have fatal consequences. Some of the expected outcomes of neglected sleep apnea include:

  • Rise in blood pressure, chances of heart attack, stroke.
  • Obesity and diabetes
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Increase in daytime-activity related accidents, etc. This is because of the excessive tiredness during the day that results from the condition.


What is sleep apnea – the different types?

There are three types of sleep apnea:

1.      Obstructive sleep apnea or OSA

2.      Central sleep apnea

3.      Mixed sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): what is this condition all about?

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea that occurs when there is a complete blockage and collapse of the upper respiratory tract. 50% of all patients diagnosed with sleep apnea are invariably patients of obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition, the breathing muscles are incapable to interpret the brain signal to take a breath because of the obstruction in the air passage that hinders air flow.

Central sleep apnea: the less common type

This is a rare condition in comparison to OSA. It happens as a result of suboptimal coordination between the section of the brain that controls breathing and the relevant muscles that are supposed to act on those signals. This results in the individual not making any effort to breathe for short periods of time.

This is a condition that is fallout of some medical conditions or after-effect of some medications. It is possible that central sleep apnea occurs in conjunction with obstructive sleep apnea but it can also happen as a stand-alone condition.

Mixed sleep apnea is the rarest type of sleep apnea and is a combination of the above two types.

Hopefully, when someone asks you the next time, what is sleep apnea? You are in a better position to respond now that you are equipped with some fundamental knowledge about this distressful sleep disorder.

What is sleep apnea? Points to remember:

  • Sleep apnea is one of the worst types of sleep disorders and obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type.
  • The primary trigger for this condition to originate is neglected snoring.
  • Obesity is one of the prime factors that start the chain of events.
  • Left untreated sleep apnea can result in some serious heart ailments, many of which are fatal.