Sleep apnoea: How to detect and what to do with it?


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People don’t usually take snoring and sudden awakenings in the middle of the night seriously. This is mostly causes by apnoea a condition where you stop breathing while asleep. It is a very dangerous condition that can have adverse consequences.

What is sleep apnea?

Apnea is the suspension of breathing. It happens during various situations such as after taking a deep breath. However, it is a disease of its own.

Breathing in patients suffering from apnoea can stop several times in just an hour. If you add up the number of times it occurs in a night, it may sum up to 4 hours of sleep without oxygen.

There are two main varieties of apnea during sleep:

  • Obstructive. This is when breathing retention is associated with mechanical difficulties. For instance, older people or those who are overweight may suffer from this disease. There airways will become very narrow. Smokers are also at high risk because of the inflamed nasopharynx as well as alcoholics due to the muscles that are too relaxed.
  • Central. This is where the parts of the brain that are responsible for breathing stop sending signals to the muscles. This type happens after taking opiates, if you have heart disease and after a stroke.

Symptoms of respiratory arrest

The main signs and symptoms that appear in patients who have the disease is loud snoring and periodic cessation of breathing. After a ”lull” for about ten seconds, they begin to snore suddenly and they may toss about in their sleep.

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Sleep apnoea occurs when you are awake if you notice the following:

  • Feeling well in the morning. If the breath is hard, the head will be aching after waking up.
  • Lack of vivacity. During the day, the man is sleepy, inattentive and distracted, because he had no rest at night.
  • The process of falling asleep. Despite the fatigue, it will be very difficult to fall asleep.
  • Memory and attention loss.

A mild form of the disease does not always require medical attention. However, it is ideal that you consult a doctor if you experience loud snoring to the point of disturbing others in their sleep; and when you feel excessively drowsy during the day.

What happens in the body when an apnea attacks?

When you are awake, you can continuously hold your breath for 1 to 2 minutes then voluntarily resume the breathing process.

During an attack, signals will be sent to the brain that the oxygen level in the blood is too low and for this reason the person will wake up. Blood pressure will increase drastically and this puts them at risk of stroke and angina. Moreover, tissues tat lack oxygen will become less susceptible to insulin, a hormone that controls sugar levels. This is why the body will become very weak.

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Ceasing to breath negatively affects all parts of the body. Without air, we cannot be alive for more than 10 minutes. The longer the bouts of apnoea when asleep, the more often they will occur while at rest and this means the patient will experience severe consequences of the disease.

What is dangerous sleep apnea in the absence of treatment

Breathing difficulties while sleeping have a lot of adverse side effects. You will begin to experience a dry mouth, headache and in some cases death as a result of long-term cessation of breathing without waking up. A patient that does not seek treatment has the risk of getting the following:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Heart disease
  • Type II diabetes
  • Various liver pathologies
  • Arrhythmia, angina and heart failure
  • Hypertension
  • Bronchial asthma
  • Heart attack, stroke, brain haemorrhage are some of the most severe consequences of oxygen deprivation and a sudden increase in pressure.
  • In very rare cases, there may be a complete shutdown of fatal breathing.

Who will help with the diagnosis?

If you notice these symptoms in you or your loved ones; that is loud snoring and intermittent breathing while sleeping, you should consult a doctor immediately. If you cant see a somnologist, ensure tat you talk to a neurologist and an otolaryngologist so that they may identify and eliminate the causes of apnoea.

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Senior man naps with CPAP machine

They will help you to monitor the duration of pauses while breathing as well as check for pressure and the state of the heart.

The methods that are often used for diagnosis are polysomnography, daily ECG and heart rateometry. These will track all changes in the body including breathing, heartbeat, nerve activity and electric impulses.

Prevention can reduce risks

Treatment of apnoea is directly related to its cause. Therefore, the most common methods used are removal of interference in the nasal pathways and correction of the nasal septum. Moreover, devices that support the mouth organs and the throat in the correct position can be used.

Prevention goes hand in hand with the most mild form of therapy. It is ideal that you adapt a healthy lifestyle, reduce your body weight, stop consuming alcohol and tobacco. Playing wind instruments and singing will also help in training the muscles of the throat. You should also get used to sleeping on your sides as this reduces symptoms and makes breathing easier. Most importantly, treat all ENT diseases on time.


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