SLEEP APNEA: SYMPTOMS AND RISK FACTORS

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SLEEP APNEA: SYMPTOMS AND RISK FACTORS

Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. This sense of inability to breathe rouses one from sleep, but this awakening is very small that one can’t remember it. The main types of sleep apnea include obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea and a combination of both known as complex sleep apnea syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles of the throat relax and narrow the airways. Whereas, central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to transmit signals to the muscles that are used for breathing, causing shortness of breath and disturbed sleep.

The symptoms of different kinds of sleep apnea usually overlap; the major symptoms include the following:

  • Loud snoring
  • Intermittent pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Sleepinesswhile driving
  • Morning headaches
  • Restless sleep
  • Forgetfulness and attention problems
  • Waking up with a very soreor dry throat
  • Decreased sexual desire

Risk Factors:

Though sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, certain factors can increase your risk of sleep apnea:

Excess weight:

People who are obese have a higher risk of sleep apnea. Usually the excess body weight that accumulates around the neck area constricts the airways and disrupts breathing. A study has shown that 50% of sleep apnea patients are overweight. Nevertheless, sleep apnea can occur in slim people too.

 Neck size:

A large neck is also a risk factor for sleep apnea. For men, the risk increases if neck size is 17 inches or more whereas for women the risk increases if it is 16 inches or more. A large neck has more soft tissues that can block the airways.

Age:

Although sleep apnea affects people of all ages, the risk is higher in those older than 40 years.

Inherited physical traits:

Some people are also prone to this sleeping disorder due to some inherited physical features. The composition of the head, skull, and oral cavities can influence the chances of having sleep apnea.  Similarly, a narrow throat may also block the airway.

Gender:

Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea than women.

Family history:

Sleep apnea is a heritable condition. One is more likely to have it if a family member has this sleeping disorder.

Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers:

Alcoholic drinks and tranquilizers relax the throat muscles, narrowing the airways.

Smoking:

Smokers are three times more likely to have sleep apnea than non-smokers. It causes inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, thus obstructing it.

 Nasal congestion:

If one has difficulty breathing through their nose, no matter what the reason is; be it an anatomical deformity or an allergy, they are more likely to develop sleep apnea.

Heart disorders:

Cardiac patients have a higher risk of sleep apnea.

Stroke:

People who’ve had a stroke are at a greater risk of central sleep apnea.

Consult our medical professionals if you experience loud snoring, shortness of breath or any of the other mentioned symptoms.  You can book an appointment with a psychiatrist in Islamabad, Karachi and Lahore through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.