Millions of Americans suffer from sleep apnea, causing them to have trouble sleeping, drowsiness during the day, and fatigue at night. It’s a serious condition that makes it hard to breathe at night and can block the air moving into and out of the lungs. Sleep apnea causes poor sleep as well as a number of other health issues.
There are three types of sleep apnea that might affect your breathing during the night.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. During this condition, the muscles in the back of the throat relax, closing the airway and physically blocking your lungs.
- Central sleep apnea is less common and originates in the brain. During sleep, your brain fails to control your breathing muscles. This will cause shallow or slow breathing, or even breathing pauses.
- Mixed sleep apnea occurs when a person has both obstructive and central sleep apnea. This type of sleep apnea is characterized by slow or shallow breathing as well as physical obstruction of the airway.
Identifying the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
The following symptoms will be experienced by anyone with sleep apnea, whether it is obstructive, central, or mixed.
- Snoring loudly during the night
- The feeling of choking during sleep
- An abrupt pause in breathing during sleep, followed by a gasp
- Sleeping with labored breathing
- Having a dry mouth in the morning
- Having morning headaches
- Fatigue during the day
- Thinking or concentrating is difficult
- Stress and irritability
You may not notice all of these symptoms because you sleep through all the sleep disturbances. Ask your partner if they have noticed any snoring, choking, or gasping noises, or if you have stopped breathing sometime during the night.
Obstructive sleep apnea: What causes it?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airways become blocked. While you sleep, your tongue, throat, and neck muscles relax, causing the muscles to narrow or completely block your airway. This can cause you to stop breathing for a few seconds. Following this, your brain sends a signal that briefly wakes up your body, tightening the muscles and restarting the flow of air.
You may only be awake for a few seconds, and you may not even remember being awake. This can happen more than 30 times in an hour. The disruption of your nighttime sleep will leave you feeling exhausted, and even if you don’t remember waking up, you won’t have been able to get a deep and restful sleep.
What Causes Central Sleep Apnea?
The causes of central sleep apnea are very different from those of obstructive sleep apnea. When a person suffers from central sleep apnea, it is the brain rather than the muscles that cause breathing problems. While you sleep, your brain continues to control your breathing muscles. When you’re sleeping, this automatic process can be disrupted, leading to shallower and slower breathing.
Central sleep apnea can also occur when the brain does not sense how much carbon dioxide is in the body. When this happens, your breathing becomes even shallower and slower than it should be, and your body won’t receive enough oxygen.
The cause of central sleep apnea is often a related health condition such as a stroke, an illness or infection, an injury to the brain, or even a brain tumor. Certain pain medications can also cause central sleep apnea.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
Several behaviors or conditions can increase your risk of developing obstructive sleep apnea. The following are some of the most common risk factors for sleep apnea:
- Such physical features as a narrow airway or enlarged tonsils can obstruct the airway.
- Nighttime nasal congestion
- Breathing problems, such as asthma
- Tobacco use
- weight gain, which results in fat deposits around the upper airway, restricting airflow.
- High blood pressure
- Laying on your back while sleeping
These are a few of the factors that can contribute to sleep apnea. Call our Sleep Apnea Glen Burnie office to schedule a consultation for more information regarding the types of sleep apnea and its causes. You can find out if you have sleep apnea by taking a sleep test and exploring your treatment options so you can get the rest you need.
Chesapeake Sleep Center
7711 Quarterfield Road, Suite C-1
Glen Burnie, MD 21061