Obstructive sleep apnea Causes Symptoms and treatments

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Sleep apnea is a disorder characterized by the onset of breathing. It occurs when the walls of the throat unite during sleep, blocking the upper respiratory area. Breathing stops for a period usually between ten seconds. Obstructive sleep apnea can be serious when breathing stops and starts again. People with obstructive sleep apnea may even be aware that they have the problem. In most cases, the person suffering from sleep apnea does not even realize that he is waking up. This pattern can be repeated hundreds of times each night, causing a fragmented sleep.

What is obstructive sleep apnea?

It is the most common form, which occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax while the person sleeps asleep. The obstructive sleep apnea appears when these muscles relax and the airway is closed. That prevents and interfere breathing. This can drastically reduce the level of oxygen in the blood. So the brain receives the message that something is wrong. Being unable to breathe, he awakens from his sleep for a brief moment. In which the airways reopened and the breathing returned to normal. This problem repeated many times during the night five to thirty times per hour on average. Irregular sleep prevents a person from achieving deep sleep, making them feel sleepy during the day.

Obstructive sleep apnea causes

Obstruction of the airways: It is the most frequent cause of sleep apnea. Relaxation of the respiratory muscles is common during sleep. For the obstructive sleep apnea syndrome to occur, some other factors need to be present.

Lifestyle: Obstructive sleep apnea causes is 3 times more common in smokers than in non-smokers. Alcohol consumption increases the relaxation of the muscles of the pharynx during sleep, favoring the appearance of obstruction of the airways.

Abdomen Obesity: The position that most favors the obstruction of the airways is the supine position. That is the abdomen position upwards. There is also a great risk of tongue falling into the throat.

Big tongue: This is the main cause of apnea in children. The excess of the tongue can also cause the obstructive sleep apnea.

Asthma: People with asthma have a higher risk of having episodes of sleep apnea. Asthma can obstruct the airway during sleep and therefore cause sleep apnea.

Other causes: Advanced age, family history and changes in the anatomy of the respiratory tract are usually the most important risk factors. Changes in the bones of the skull, mainly in the jaw, hypertrophy of the tonsils, deviation of the septum, nasal polyps or having a small and wide neck, are also some common factors. This favors the appearance of the obstructive sleep apnea.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea

We leave some of the symptoms that you see in a person affected obstructive apnea sleep and help you to fix the problem:

  • Hyperactive behavior, especially in children
  • Respiratory pauses
  • Difficulty of concentration
  • A headache on awakening
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Irritability
  • Lack of libido
  • Reluctance
  • Memory disorder
  • Driving drowsiness
  • Impotence
  • Memory problems, difficulties to concentrate
  • Awakenings with suffocation
  • Low work or academic performance

Most of these symptoms develop very slowly over time. The patient may not be able to give them importance or attribute them to age. Meet the doctor to be able to perform a respiratory polygraphy. Detect whether or not there is obstructive sleep apnea.

Treatment for obstructive sleep apnea

The doctor can make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms. To determine the diagnosis, the doctor can ask you for a nocturnal evaluation. It is to monitor the breathing and other functions of the body during sleep. This test called nocturnal polysomnography. The main objective of the treatment of sleep apnea is to keep the airways open. Perhaps some patients need to use dental equipment in the mouth at night. The goal of treatment is to keep the airways open. The following lifestyle changes may relieve the symptoms of sleep apnea:

  • Lose weight: The constriction of the throat will be relieved. You only have to recover your healthy weight making a proper and balanced diet.
  • Exercise: 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day, such as a light walk can help you to relieve obstructive sleep apnea.
  • Avoid alcohol: Sleeping pills or antihistamines are harmful to health. Consuming alcoholic beverages are the subsequent muscles of the throat, interfering with breathing.
  • Sleep on one side: Avoid sleeping on your back. It can cause the tongue or soft palate to rest on the throat and block the airway. Some say that you can sew a tennis ball or some object on the back of the pajama to avoid turning during the night.
  • Avoid caffeine consumption or very heavy dinners: Caffeine interferes with the normal sleep rhythm, as do high intakes.

Obstructive sleep apnea surgery

People now considered the first line treatment CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea. CPAP controlled through a machine with a tight facemask. Many patients cannot tolerate CPAP therapy. Good control and support from a specialized sleep clinic can often help to overcome any problems with the use of CPAP. Some patients may need dental devices inserted into the mouth at night to keep the jaw forward. Surgical intervention is in the cavity of the nose or spinal cord.


To confirm the diagnosis, the baseline study is nocturnal basal polysomnography. It consists of placing electroencephalogram; chin electromyogram, nasal and oral flow, thoracic and abdominal movements, and oxygen saturation by pulse oximetry. The patient must go to a sleep clinic. A technician monitors the obtaining of the signals throughout the registration. The rate of apnea-hypopnea (AHI) obtained by qualifying all events, obstructive apneas, central apneas, hypopneas. Once the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea is corroborated, the treatment options consist of:

  • CPAP
  • Multilevel upper airway surgery
  • Inhaled steroids
  • Pacemaker in genioglossus


The first option is CPAP only when the patient has no attachment. There are indications individually for each of the options. Inhaled steroids and antileukotrienes are useful in mild apnea in children. Mandibular advancement devices are the second option in mild apnea. The general measures such as sleep hygiene, weight control, etc. It has estimated that a 10% decrease in total body weight decreases AHI by 20%. Avoid the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and hypnotic medicines to stay away from obstructive sleep apnea.


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