Sleep Apnea Symptoms and Causes

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a breathing-related sleep disorder that is characterized by interruptions in a person’s breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing generally last over 10 seconds and are known as sleep apnea episodes, during which a person’s airway is blocked partially or fully and oxygen is unable to circulate through the body. When you stop breathing while sleeping, your body does not get enough oxygen to facilitate important body processes. Low levels of oxygen can result in lowered sleep quality, lack of daytime focus, memory issues, poor work or school performance, fatigue, and other health complications.

What are the different types of sleep apnea?

There are several different types of sleep apnea, which differ based on the root cause of interruptions in breathing.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive sleep apnea, also known as OSA, is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when a patient experiences a partial or complete blockage of the airway during sleep. OSA can range in severity, with severity based upon the number of breathing events that occur per hour of sleep.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing during sleep. This condition is less common than OSA.

Mixed Sleep Apnea (MSA)

Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

What causes sleep apnea?

While central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing during sleep, obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something obstructs the airway and oxygen cannot easily flow through the nose or mouth during sleep.

The underlying cause of obstruction in OSA can be affected by a wide range of factors and other health conditions, including:

  • Mouth structure: Structural abnormalities and extra soft tissue in the mouth and throat is one common cause of airway obstruction in OSA. Factors such as excess soft palate tissue, enlarged tonsils or adenoids, a large tongue or tongue with poor muscle tone are all possible sources of airway blockage during sleep.
  • Nasal conditions / nasal structure: Blockages in the nasal passages can also be a factor in airway obstruction, which includes both structural problems as well as acute and chronic medical conditions. Factors such as a deviated septum, chronic sinusitis (sinus infection), enlarged turbinates, nasal polyps, and allergies are all possible causes of airway blockage during sleep.
  • Being overweight: Extra weight around the neck makes airway obstruction much more likely to occur. Patients who are overweight or struggling with obesity face a greater risk of a narrowed airway passage and obstructed breathing at night.

Other lifestyle factors can also play into the severity and likelihood of airway obstruction. This includes things such as taking sleep aids and consuming alcohol or food close to bedtime — all of which can affect how the muscles in your throat relax, making obstruction more likely. In addition, sleeping position can also play a role. Sleeping on one’s back increases the likelihood of muscles or tissues blocking (or partially blocking) the airway.

What are the common sleep apnea symptoms?

Sleep apnea is a serious health condition that can significantly lower your quality of life and can even be life-threatening in some cases. Consult an experienced sleep specialist at eos sleep diagnostics if you are experiencing symptoms including:

  • Snoring
  • Loud gasping or snorting sounds throughout the night
  • Sudden awakenings during the night
  • Morning headaches
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Mood swings / irritability
  • Lowered daytime focus
  • Decreased libido
  • Memory loss

What are the side effects of sleep apnea?

In addition to lowered sleep quality and the potentially life-threatening consequences of low oxygen levels, those suffering from OSA may be at a higher risk for the following health complications:

  • High blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke

How is a sleep apnea diagnosis made?

If you believe you may be suffering from severe snoring or sleep apnea, consult a sleep specialist at eos sleep diagnostics. A sleep study at our state-of-the-art Manhattan sleep lab can determine whether you are suffering from sleep apnea or any other sleep disorders. Our facility offers a comfortable in-office sleep lab as well as the ability to take an at-home sleep apnea test.

A sleep apnea diagnosis is the first step to determining proper treatment so that you can achieve the restful and restorative sleep that you deserve.

If you’re suffering from symptoms of sleep apnea and want to schedule a sleep study at eos sleep diagnostics’ NYC sleep lab, call 212.752.4345 or fill out the form on this page to request an appointment with one of our sleep specialists.

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