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Sleep Apnea Risk Factors and Possible Complications

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Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where breathing repeatedly starts and stops. Patients who snore loudly and feel extremely tired even after a full night’s sleep most likely have sleep apnea.


There are 3 main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea – This is considered the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. The condition often occurs when the muscles of the throat relaxes.
  • Central sleep apnea – This type of sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome – This type of sleep apnea is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. The condition occurs when a patient has central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.


If you suspect you have sleep apnea, seeing a doctor is recommended so you’ll know the sleep apnea treatment that’s best for your case. Sleep apnea treatment will not only be able to ease the symptoms of the condition, it can also help ensure other possible complications like heart problems are prevented.


Risk Factors

Sleep apnea can affect almost everyone, including children. However certain factors can increase one’s risk. Some of the risk factors include:


Obstructive Sleep Apnea

  • Excess weight. Obesity can increase the risk of sleep apnea significantly. Fat deposits around an individual’s upper airway can obstruct breathing.
  • Neck circumference. Individuals with thick necks might have narrow airways.
  • Gender. Compared to women, men are 2 to 3 times more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • Family history. Having family members with sleep apnea can increase one’s risk.
  • Use of sedatives, alcohol, or tranquillisers. These substances can relax the muscles in the throat and can worsen obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Smoking. People who smoke are more likely to have obstructive apnea compared to those who don’t. Smoking can increase the fluid retention and amount of inflammation in the upper airway.
  • Nasal congestion. Those who have difficulty breathing through their nose (whether from allergies or anatomical problems) are more prone to obstructive sleep apnea.


Central Sleep Apnea

  • Age. Middle-aged and older people have a higher risk of developing central sleep apnea.
  • Gender. Central sleep apnea is more prevalent in men than in women.
  • Heart disorders. People with congestive heart failure have a higher risk of developing central sleep apnea.
  • Narcotic pain medications. Opioid medications can increase the risk of developing central sleep apnea.
  • Stroke. A stroke increases the risk of developing treatment-emergent central sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.



Some of the possible complications of sleep apnea can include:

  • Daytime fatigue. Repeated awakenings secondary to sleep apnea can make restorative sleep impossible. As a result, daytime drowsiness, irritability, and fatigue can occur.
  • Heart problems or high blood pressure. Sudden drops in blood oxygen levels that happen during sleep apnea may increase blood pressure and may even strain the cardiovascular system. Obstructive sleep apnea can also increase one’s risk of developing hypertension or high blood pressure.
  • Type 2 diabetes. Sleep apnea can also increase an individual’s risk of developing insulin resistance as well as type 2 diabetes.
  • Metabolic syndrome. This disorder, which includes high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and abnormal cholesterol levels is associated with a higher risk of heart disease.
Dr. Gerald Tan