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Possible Causes of Sleep Apnea

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Do you find yourself excessively tired even after a full night’s sleep? Are you constantly in the lookout for ways to stop snoring? If you answered yes to the two questions, it is highly likely that you have sleep apnea. Essentially, sleep apnea is considered a sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly stops and starts.

While sleep apnea is deemed potentially dangerous, it is good to know that there are several sleep apnea treatment options available at one’s disposal nowadays. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, it is recommended that you visit your doctor right away.

Below are some of the likely causes of the condition as well as some of the best treatment options available:

Possible Causes

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles situated in the back of the throat relax. Said muscles supports the uvula (the triangular piece of tissue that hangs from the soft palate), the tonsils, side walls of the throat, soft palate, and tongue.

Each time said muscles relax, the airway will also close or narrow down as the patient breathes in. As a result, patient won’t be able to get enough air. Not getting enough air can result to lower oxygen levels in the blood.

As soon as the brain senses the inability to breathe, it will rouse the patient briefly so the airway can reopen. In most cases however, the awakening is very brief that people who suffer from the condition will barely notice or remember.

Patients with sleep apnea can snort, choke, or gasp. The pattern can repeat itself all through the night, resulting in the inability to achieve a sound, restful, and deep sleep.

  • Central Sleep Apnea

A less common form of sleep apnea is the central sleep apnea. This type of sleeping disorder occurs when there is an inability of the brain to transmit signals to the breathing muscles.

As a result, the patient will make no effort to breath, at least for a very short period. They will also experience shortness of breath and will likely have a difficult time getting back to sleep or staying asleep.

Treatment Options

For patients with a mild case of sleep apnea, lifestyle changes such as losing weight or quitting smoking might be recommended. For those who have nasal allergies, treatment for allergies may be given.

For those with moderate to severe sleep apnea, several treatment alternatives are available. For instance, to help open up the blocked airway, some devices might be recommended. Severe cases however, might warrant surgery.

  • Oral appliances

Some oral appliances are available from the dentist. For example, mandibular advancement devices (MAD) can be used for patients with mild to moderate sleep apnea. The device is worn in the mouth during sleep and works like a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer.

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)

Patients with moderate to severe sleep apnea, a CPAP (SEE-pap) machine might be recommended. The machine works by delivering air pressure through a mask while the patient is asleep.

When a CPAP machine is used, the air pressure is greater than the surrounding air so the upper passages are kept open. As a result, it may help to improve both snoring and sleep apnea.

Dr. Gerald Tan