Understanding Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms, and Types


Sleep apnea is a disorder which makes breathing and sleeping simultaneously almost an impossible task. Thus, those with this condition tend to wake up a number of times during the night, out of breath.

Common Causes

According to medical studies, people with achondroplasia or those who have smaller stature than average sized persons, are more likely to develop sleep apnea. This is because their chest is relatively smaller than normal. Additional reasons include a short neck, a small chin and a small face. Their soft tissues also continue to grow long after their bones have fully developed. Thus these tissues which are contained in smaller spaces will tend to obstruct passage ways.

Other reasons for developing sleep apnea include obesity, excessive alcohol intake, drug use, asthma and other upper respiratory problems.

Signs and Symptoms

What are the symptoms? Do you snore? Do you feel sleepy during the day or cannot keep your eyes open even after a full sleep of 8 hours? Chances are you have sleep apnea. Other symptoms include morning headaches, memory loss, and high blood pressure.

Different Types of Sleep Apnea

There are many type of sleep apnea; the most common of which is called obstructive sleep apnea. This is caused by a blockage in the airway. Why does this obstruction occur only when you sleep? When a person sleeps, chemical messengers tell the brain to relax some parts of the body very much active when a person is up and about. These parts include the muscles in the airway. When these muscles relax, the soft tissues lining our throat have the tendency to block the airway. If you have sleep apnea, you will go through the motions of breathing for a while before realizing that you are actually not taking in oxygen. When you suddenly wake up after a minute or two of sleeping, the muscles immediately tone up, thus the blockage of tissues is removed. When you have apnea, waking up and immediately drifting back to sleep is a normal occurrence that you actually sleep through these rituals. However, because the body is not properly rested, you will wake up in the morning, still feeling sleepy and tired.

Oxygen loss in people with this disorder has an adverse effect on the other organs. Examples are irregular heartbeats and memory loss. For children, lack of oxygen may retard their growth, thus disabling them to reach their ideal or potential height.

Be wary if you snore. You may already have a mild form of sleep apnea. You can visit a clinic where an overnight sleep study will be conducted. This study has been successful in detecting apnea and other sleep disorders.

Treatments may include securing a device called a breathing machine or surgery.