What is Sleep Apnea?

Studies on sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a severe, potentially life-threatening disorder that is far more common than commonly understood. Sleep apnea may affect all age groups and both genders. It is mostly common in men, although it may be underdiagnosed in women and young African-Americans. Recent studies on sleep apnea estimated that as many as more than 18 million Americans have sleep apnea.

Due to the high prevalence of sleep apnea, people often ask – can sleep apnea cause neurological problems? With early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea, most effects of this disorder are dealt with. If left untreated, sleep apnea may be associated with:

  • High blood pressure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart attack
  • Sleep apnea dementia symptoms
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Stroke
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle and workplace accidents

Different types of sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder caused by momentary interruptions of breathing during sleep. There are two common types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when air fails to flow correctly into or out of the person’s nose or mouth amidst efforts to breathe continue.
  • Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send the appropriate signals to the muscles to initiate breathing. Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea.

What causes sleep apnea?

Certain mechanical and structural difficulties in the airway cause the intermittent disruptions in breathing during sleep. According to sleep experts, sleep apnea occurs:

  • When the throat muscles and tongue relax when one sleeps and partially blocks the airway’s opening.
  • When the muscles of the soft palate at the base of the tongue and the uvula relax and sag. That causes the airway to be blocked, making breathing hard, noisy, and even stopping it altogether.
  • When a person with a narrowed airway continues with his or her efforts to breathe, but air cannot easily flow into or out of the nose or mouth.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed?

Sleep apnea clinical trials

The diagnosis of sleep apnea is not simple because there can be many different causes. Nevertheless, primary health care providers, pulmonologists, neurologists, or doctors with specialty training in sleep disorders may make definitive diagnosis sleep apnea clinical trials and initiate suitable treatment solutions.

Polysomnography is a commonly used obstructive and central sleep apnea treatment test that records a variety of body functions during sleep. It records body functions such as eye movement, muscle activity, heart rate, the electrical activity of the brain, respiratory effort, airflow, and blood oxygen levels.

Typically, diagnostic tests are performed in a sleep center. However, new and advanced technology may allow some sleep studies to be conducted in the patient’s home.

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