Sleep apnea limits the quantity of oxygen that reaches the lungs thereby affecting the patients’ sleep. However, what is sleep apnea precisely, and why is therapy required? Read on to know more.

What is Sleep Apnea


The air we breathe enters our lungs by passing from the throat through the windpipes. The throat muscles stay larger passing enough air to the lungs whereas when we sleep it relaxes and narrows the aperture, which restricts or inhibits airflow to the lungs.  The muscle retaining the breath in the throat is then instructed to constrict by the brain. It then instructs the muscles to create a gap so that air may flow. The person may go through this procedure more than thirty times in an hour and be tired and drowsy all day due to lack of sleep at night. We refer to the illness as sleep apnea. This elevates blood pressure and increases the risk of heart problems. 

Types of Sleep Apnea

1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)


It happens when the tongue or airway muscles block the throat. The risk of OSA goes up if you’re over 50, smoke, have high blood pressure and your neck circumference is 15.75 inches or more. Enlarged tonsils, nasal congestion, small tongue that drops into the throat also block the airway. Lying on the back further worsens the OSA.

2. Central Sleep Apnea


In this condition, the brain fails to send signals to the muscles to control breathing. This can be due to high medications or conditions like heart failure and stroke. It can also be the result of using CPAP (the machine that treats sleep apnea by blowing air into the lungs).

3. Complex Sleep Apnea


Certain conditions like congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and certain medications, such as narcotic pain relievers, can relax muscles in the tongue and palate, leading to obstructive sleep apnea.

Can Sleep apnea kill you

Untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of serious health conditions that can be life-threatening, despite it not directly causing death.

  • Increased risk:  Untreated sleep apnea increases the risk of sudden death during sleep, particularly in older adults, those with severe sleep apnea, or those with underlying health conditions.

  • Complications:  This disrupts breathing, lowering oxygen levels, and straining the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure, which can be life-threatening.

  • Get help:  It is treatable, and early diagnosis and treatment can significantly reduce health risks and improve sleep quality.

Can sleep apnea cause high blood pressure

Sleep apnea is a contributing factor to hypertension. Let me explain:

Breathing disruptions:
When you experience sleep apnea episodes, it happens that your breathing stops and starts over and over again. Low oxygen levels in consequence trigger the fight-or-flight reaction of your system thus boosting the pressure in your blood.

Stress on the heart:
In time this repeated rise and fall of oxygen level makes your heart pump more blood and this means a great effort for it so that it can be able to supply your whole body with it. This strain can over time result in the patient developing high blood pressure that is always constant.

Nighttime vs. daytime:
If you have sleep apnea, your blood pressure may rise while you sleep at night, even if levels appear normal when you are awake. However, such kind of night-time hypertension still can lead to permanent health disorders.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The following are typical signs of this sleeping disorder:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Snoring
  • Snorting while sleeping
  • Dry mouth/ throat
  • Waking with shortness of breath
  • Pause in breath
  • Gasping

Effects of Sleep Apnea

Early stages might cause daytime fatigue, memory loss, and learning issues; however, severe sleep apnea can cause heart attack, stroke, or diabetes. How many of you have questioned why the negative effects of these sleep issues are so severe? Cardiovascular disease can result from persistent inflammation brought on by low lung oxygen levels. Sleep deprivation changes metabolism. It may also cause certain cancers because of its effect on the immune system.

Diagnostic Method

See your doctor if you think you have sleep apnea; they might recommend a sleep specialist. Based on the evaluation, a sleep study might be scheduled. This test uses portable equipment to evaluate blood oxygen levels, respiration, snoring, heart rate, sleep position, and brain impulses. 

How to Treat Sleep Apnea

1. CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure


This is the standard treatment. CPAP applies gentle pressure into the blocked airway, allowing oxygen to enter the lungs, and improving the quality of sleep. 

2. Oral Appliances


Typically, dentists who specialize in dental sleep medicine create unique fits that pull the jaw and tongue forward. Treating obstructive is the only purpose for oral appliances. Now several oral devices are available without a custom fit and at a lower cost but have a one-size-fits-all approach.

3. Surgery

For patients who cannot get any improvements from the treatment, surgery is performed to remove excess tissue from the tongue or pharynx, straighten the septum, or reduce the size of turbinates, which are structures that help humidify and clean the nose. Bariatric surgery for weight loss can also improve or eliminate sleep apnea.

Does sleep apnea cause weight gain?

“Sleep apnea and weight gain have a two-way relationship. This is how they could influence each other:”

Weight gain can worsen sleep apnea:

  • Narrowed airway:

    Your throat passage becomes restricted by fat surrounding the neck which causes more frequent and severe sleep apnea episodes.

Sleep apnea can contribute to weight gain:

  • Hormonal changes:

    Lack of sleep causes disturbance to hormones that control appetite. This often results from leptin drop, whose role is to help you feel full while ghrelin increases making you feel more hungry and therefore increasing chances for overeating which may have after-effects on general body health.

  • Reduced energy:

    Fragmented sleep caused by sleep apnea might leave you tired, and make you less motivated to exercise which leads to weight gain.

Can We Handle Sleep Apnea at Home?

If your obstructive sleep apnea is just getting started, you can try the following home remedies.

1. Watch your Weight


Being overweight is a major contributing factor to sleep apnea, especially the excess neck fat can make it difficult to breathe at night. Therefore, trying to decrease weight is the first and most crucial step.

2. Healthier Lifestyle


In addition to losing weight, giving up alcohol, smoking, and using over-the-counter drugs can reduce the OSA symptoms.

3. Side Sleeping


It is advisable to sleep on the sides to avoid increased risks of OSA episodes.

4. Head-UP Sleeping


If sleeping on the sides is difficult, raising the head of the bed can be an effective way. Even pillows can be used to raise the head level from the bed.

Have a Peaceful Night

Though sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder, being aware of its symptoms and getting the right diagnosis and care can help get rid of it. Take control of your sleep health and welcome a better, more energetic future!