Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and treatment

Sleep Apnea

Definitions of sleep apnea

Central apnea is defined as a respiratory pause of more than ten seconds in length, caused by the cessation of the contraction of the respiratory muscles. This is due to the existence of alterations in the mechanisms and in the central nervous system centers involved in breathing

These episodes usually last 10 seconds or more and occur repetitively throughout the night. People affected by sleep apnea partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning will not be aware of the disruption of their sleep.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, caused by relaxation of the soft tissues of the back of the throat that blocks the passage of air. Central sleep apnea is caused by irregularities in the normal brain respiratory signals. Almost all those affected by sleep apnea have a combination of the two types.

Symptoms of sleep apnea

The main symptom of the disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness.

Additional symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • restless sleep
  • loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps)
  • falling asleep during the day
  • headaches in the morning
  • concentration problems
  • irritability
  • oblivion
  • changes in mood or behavior
  • anxiety and depression

Not everyone with these symptoms has sleep apnea, but it is recommended that people who experience some of these symptoms go to your doctor for an evaluation. Sleep apnea occurs more often in men than in women, and people who are overweight or obese.

Treatments for sleep apnea

There are various treatments for sleep apnea, depending on the clinical history and the severity of the disorder. Almost all treatment regimens begin with lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and medications that relax the central nervous system (eg, sedatives and muscle relaxants), losing weight and quitting smoking.

Some people improve something special pillows or devices that prevent sleeping on your back, or oral appliances to keep the airway open during sleep. If these conservative methods are inadequate, doctors often recommend a pressure vessel continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP, for its acronym in English), which consists of a face mask connected to a tube and a machine that blows pressurized air inside the mask and through the airway to keep it open.

There are also surgical procedures that can be used to remove tissue and widen the airway. Some people may need a combination of therapies to successfully treat their sleep apnea.

Hazards or risks of sleep apnea

If untreated, sleep apnea can be fatal. Excessive sleepiness during the day can make people fall asleep at inappropriate times, like when driving a car. Sleep apnea also appears to put people at risk of cerebrovascular accidents (CVA) and transient ischemic attacks (also known as "mini-stroke"), and is associated with coronary artery disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeats, heart attacks and arterial hypertension. Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, recent studies suggest that successful treatment may reduce the risk of heart problems and blood pressure.

Machine translation