What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep-related breathing disorder indicated by short pauses of abnormal breathing while sleeping. These pauses, also known as “apneas” or “apnea events”, typically happen multiple times throughout the night, lasting for around 10 to 30 seconds each time. Statistics Canada have found sleep apnea is associated with many diseases, such as heart disease, cardiac arrhythmia, obesity, and diabetes. Furthermore, if sleep apnea is left untreated, it is possible to develop other health conditions such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. Both men and women can be diagnosed with sleep apnea, however, men are two times more likely.

Some common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include, loud snoring, sudden gasps for air while sleeping, fatigue, insomnia, headaches in the morning, mood changes, and decreased concentration during the day. It is common for a person with sleep apnea to not recognize these signs as they are usually unaware of apnea events during sleep. Thus, family members are usually the first to notice these signs, as they are typically disturbed by the apnea events during the night.

There are 3 different kinds of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), central sleep apnea (CSA), and mixed sleep apnea. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. As the name implies, it is when there is an obstruction, specifically in the back of the throat, which prevents the airflow from going in and out naturally. This blockage can occur due to the tissue at the back of the throat collapsing, which can be a result of excess fatty tissue. Central sleep apnea is identified by the brain’s inability to properly control the muscles required for respiration during sleep. Mixed sleep apnea is when someone experiences both OSA and CSA.

Some people have sleep apnea as a result of excess fat tissue, so if it is still in mild conditions, doctors will often encourage them to lose weight and be more physically active. This will make it easier for them to breathe. In addition, sleeping on time and waking up at the same time regularly, can prevent exhaustion, which is another risk factor for sleep apnea. An immediate change that can be implemented into your lifestyle can be to sleep on your side. This will make the tissues at the back of the throat be pulled by gravity, further opening the airway.

Even after these lifestyle changes, some people typically use a CPAP to aid their breathing, and thus, get better sleep. CPAP stands for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, which is the most common treatment used, specifically for OSA. It works by providing a constant air flow into the airway of the throat, through an exterior tube and mask, which will essentially allow the airway to stay open, preventing any apnea events throughout the night. The pressure of the CPAP can be changed depending on the person’s condition.

Sleep apnea is important to control when first signs and symptoms appear, as they can lead to many serious health conditions, such as blood pressure and heart disease. Guildview Pharmacy can review your medications to ensure none of them contribute to the condition.

Written by: Pritika Thevasingha

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