A Health Crisis Hiding in the Dark
Sleep apnea affects on average one out of every five adults in the US – and most people don’t even realize they have it. Sleep apnea is more prominent than both diabetes and asthma, yet awareness about the disease is dangerously lacking. Though it’s more common in middle aged, overweight men, sleep apnea affects people of all body types, sex, ethnic backgrounds and ages, even children. There are various forms of sleep apnea, which you can learn about here.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
By far the most common form of the disorder, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) occurs when the tongue, soft palate and uvula fall into the back of the throat, blocking the airway and causing the person to stop breathing for periods ranging from 10 seconds to a full minute – often hundreds of times every night. OSA is classified as mild, moderate or severe, depending on how often breathing stoppages occur. If breathing stops more than 30 times per hour, the condition is considered severe.
As airflow becomes obstructed
blood oxygen levels normally decrease, signaling the brain to wake from sleep – though the person rarely regains full consciousness. These micro interruptions or arousals are generally so brief that the person may not even remember waking up. This is often why most people with sleep apnea don’t know they have it. These repeated sleep disruptions prevent a patient from ever reaching the deep levels of sleep necessary for the body to function normally.
Scientists are unsure about the exact causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea – though some research suggests that:
- Sleeping on your back
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids
- Small jaw
- And certain medications are associated with this chronic condition.
Two physical factors – redundant tissue in the upper airway and an anatomically narrow airway – are known to lead to OSA as well. More serious cases of OSA are generally treated by using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine. CPAP works 100% of the time if the patient uses it regularly for at least four to five hours per night and there is no air leak in the system.
Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)
Central Sleep Apnea is far less common than Obstructive Sleep Apnea – but the potentially deadly effects are the same. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA) is caused by a neurological misfire in which the brain fails to signal the body to breathe during sleep, causing irregular breathing patterns as well as complete pauses in breathing.
The most common breathing pattern associated with CSA is called Cheyne-Stokes, in which periods of hyper- breathing follow complete interruptions of breathing. CSA can also evolve into what is referred to as “mixed” sleep apnea, in which an event that begins as CSA transforms into Obstructive Sleep Apnea. SleepQuest experts have successfully treated CSA with an in-home, non-invasive ventilator device that prevents breathing stoppages.
Complex Sleep Apnea
A relatively new discovery in the field of sleep science, Complex Sleep Apnea occurs when a patient who was diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea begins to exhibit symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea after treatment with a CPAP or Auto PAP has begun. Sleep scientists estimate that as many as 15 percent of sleep apnea sufferers experience Complex Sleep Apnea. When these symptoms arise, patients are generally moved from CPAP/Auto PAP treatment to non-invasive ventilators.