Health and Wellness

Sleep Apnea: A severe and fatal sleep disorder

Sleep Apnea: A severe and fatal sleep disorder.
Written by Banani Chakraborty

Sleep apnea is a severe and fatal sleep disorder in which the victim’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts. It is a very common problem. This familiar problem affects a lot of people. Generally breathing of the affected person frequently stops and starts during sleep.

Sleep Apnea: A severe and fatal sleep disorder.

Repetitive pauses of breathing occur in case of the affected person while in sleep. Although this course lasts for hundreds of times at night, the victim is not aware of it.

What is Sleep apnea:

or

Definition of sleep apnea:

obstractive sleep apnea

source google image

Sleep apnea is a state where a man’s breathing is interrupted for several seconds during his sleep. It happens multiple times at night. As a result, the oxygen supply in the blood and afterwards to the brain turns down.

This leads to a disturbance of normal bodily functions. Therefore it paves the way for serious, even life-threatening, condition.

In the first place, it is a repetitive pause of breathing during sleeping. Further, it is a common sleep disorder. Furthermore, it happens if a man stops breathing for 10 seconds or more.

Restless sleep, daytime sleepiness, loud snoring may be some symptoms for it. This unintentional, as well as uncontrolled pause in breathing, may happen due to either a blocked airway or a signalling difficulty in the brain.

Types of sleep apnea:

It is three types:

  • obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA).
  • Mixed sleep apnea: Both the above.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):

OSA occurs due to blocked airways. It occurs due to the collapse of the airway while in sleep. The reason behind it is a complete or partial blockage of the airways during sleep.


In fact, it is the most common in nature that affects 4% of the men and 2% of women. However, around 10% of the affected people undergo treatment. But, the majority of the sufferers remain undiagnosed.

Central sleep apnea (CSA).

CSA occurs because of signalling crisis in the brain. Our brain temporarily fails to activate the muscles of breathing while in sleep.

Mixed sleep apnea:

It is a combination of the above two.

In all these cases, people will unintentionally stop breathing again and again during their sleep. If the airway is opened or the breathing signal is resumed, then the person may take a deep breath or snort.  Otherwise, the person may be totally awakened with a sensation of choking or smothering or gasping.

Fast facts on sleep apnea:

Some facts relating to this are:

  • In the first place, it is more common in people above 50 years of age. But, it may affect anyone, even the children.
  • Approximately, 1 in every 5 adults can witness mild symptoms of OSA. Besides, 1 in every 15 experience moderate-to-severe symptoms.
  • Menopausal as well as postmenopausal women possess more risk of OSA.

Symptoms of sleep apnea:

The affected person is unaware of these symptoms. But, other family members like parents, love and relations, children can notice the symptoms.  They can notice that

  • The sleeper stops breathing, at first.
  • Then he suddenly wheezes or grunts.
  • Next, he wakes up and immediately goes back to sleep. (It may also be for sleep paralysis. It is another very common type of sleep disorder).

At first, express your gratitude towards them as they have detected the problem. Without their help, it was not possible for you to find it out.

Another noticeable symptom of sleep apnea is daytime drowsiness. This is due to the disturbance of sleep at night. As a result, it will hamper your level of motivation. So it will be very hard for you to maintain your motivation. Lack of motivation will tend to hamper your positive attitude. Therefore, indirectly, it will affect badly or negatively on your self-esteem.

Moreover, a lack of sleep has a positive impact on hair loss and a negative impact on flawless skin. As a result, it will be altogether a tuff ask to maintain the beauty of your face.

Common sleep apnea (CSA) symptoms:

Below are the symptoms of which some occurs at night and some others during the day.

Nighttime symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Loud, disruptive as well as persistent snoring
  • Restless sleep or insomnia.
  • Night-time sweating.
  • Frequent breaks in breathing followed by choking or gasping.
  • Wakes up during the night to go to the bathroom (Nocturia).

Daytime symptoms of sleep apnea are:

  • Morning headache.
  • Concentration problem.
  • Heartburn.
  • Mood changes.
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness.
  • Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction.
  • Decreased sexual desire.
  • Wake up with sore throat or dry mouth.
  • Irritability or depression.
  • Memory loss.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):

  • Loud, disruptive as well as regular snoring.
  • Morning headache.
  • Frequent breaks in breathing followed by choking or gasping.
  • Excessive daytime drowsiness.
  • Restless sleep.
  • Irritability or depression.

Symptoms of central sleep apnea (CSA).

The common sleep apnea symptoms excluding the symptoms of (OSA).

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?

Read the common symptoms.


Another noticeable aspect is that a man with a large neck is prone to this. Large neck means more than 17 inches for men and 15 inches for women.

Risk factors of sleep apnea:

Sleep apnea may cause several risks like:

  • Prevailing family history.
  • (Body mass index or BMI of 30 or more).
  • Recent weight gain (BMI of 25 or more).
  • Large tonsils or adenoids.
  • Supine (flat on back) sleeping.
  • Large neck circumference (17 inches for men and 15 inches for women).
  • Down syndrome.
  • Chronic sinusitis.
  • Hypertension.
  • Recessed chain or large overbite.
  • Smoking.
  • Menopause.
  • Male are more common than women.
  • Common in middle age or young adulthood.
  • Stroke.
  • Memory loss.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Car or motor vehicle accidents.
  • Metabolic syndrome.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Damaged cognition.
  • Mood changes.
  • Headaches
  • Nasal obstructions due to allergies or a deviated septum.
  • Large tongue.
  • Small jaw bone.

Complications of sleep apnea:

The affected person may face several complications due to this. The complications may include

  • Down syndrome.
  • Chronic sinusitis.
  • Hypertension
  • Recessed chain or large overbite.
  • Menopause.
  • Male are more common than women.
  • Common in middle age or young adulthood.
  • Stroke.
  • Memory loss.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Car or motor vehicle accidents.
  • Metabolic syndrome.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Damaged cognition.
  • Mood changes.
  • Headaches
  • Nasal obstructions due to allergies or a deviated septum.
  • Large tongue.
  • Small jaw bone.

Causes of sleep apnea:

The reasons behind this may be as follows:

Muscular changes:

The muscles that keep the air path open while in relax, as well as the tongue, may narrow the airways at the time of sleep at night. Therefore, it prevents the airflow in and out of the lungs and the problem creates.

Physical obstruction:

Due to the additional thickness of tissue or too many fats that pile up around the airway can hamper airflow. As a result, any air that squeezes past may cause loud snoring.

Brain function:

In the case of central sleep apnea (CSA), there occur faulty neurological controls at the time of breathing. CSA is generally related to the following medical conditions:

  • Use of pain relief medicine.
  • Heart failure or stroke.
  • Ascent to high altitude.

At first, the snoring stops because the airway gets entirely blocked. Immediately thereafter breathing ceases for 10-20 seconds or until the brain signals the muscles to tighten in order to return the airflow.

Diagnosis of sleep apnea:

Affected persons need to consult a doctor or medical provider not only to determine the exact cause but also for taking necessary steps to cure it.

Preparing for your appointment:

The doctor will evaluate sleep apnea based on signs and symptoms as well as sleep history. If the doctor thinks, then he may refer to a sleep disorder centre for testing and further treatment. At first, he may ask some common questions.  He may ask maybe like:

  • How long do you take to fall asleep?
  • Describe your sleep environment.
  • Are you taking any medicines?
  • Do you know that you snore or has anyone told you of this?
  • Do you nod off easily while watching television or reading?
  • What is your sleep schedule on weekdays as well as weekends?
  • Does anyone of your family has noticed this?
  • Do you wake up with a panic feeling?
  • How much sleep do you think you get each night?
  • How do you feel when you wake up?

Tests of sleep apnea:

Generally, tests involve overnight monitoring of breathing and other body functions during sleep. This test may be done in a sleep centre or even at home.


Asleep disorder expert will interpret the test. Based on the report you have to decide your next course of action.

Nocturnal polysomnography:

At first, the sleep apnea test will take place while you sleep. During this test, the types of equipment will hook up with you and will monitor the activities of heart, lung along with the brain. Further, it will follow breathing patterns, airflow and oxygen level in blood. Added to this, it will also monitor eye arm and foot movement.

Home Sleep Test:

The doctor may suggest Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT) at home. They generally measure heart rate, airflow, blood oxygen quantity along with breathing pattern. The number of apnea happening in every hour will determine its severity.

Normal sleep apnea: 0-5 such incident per hour.

Mild sleep apnea: 5-15 such incident per hour.

Moderate sleep apnea: 16-30 such incident per hour.

Severe sleep apnea: more than 31 such incidents per hour.

Finally, a sleep specialist will analyze the recordings and suggest the diagnosis.

Other tests for sleep apnea:

  • EEG (electroencephalogram): It measures and records brain wave activity.
  • ECG (electrocardiogram): It records heart rate along with the rhythm.
  • EMG (electromyogram): It records several muscle activities like teeth grinding, face twitches and leg movements. Additionally, it determines intense dreams during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. (Also read deep sleep).
  • Nasal airflow sensor: It is for recording nasal airflow.
  • EOG (electrooculogram): It records eye movement of different sleep stages, mainly REM sleep.
  • Snore microphone: It determines snoring activities.

Treatment of sleep apnea:

It is a very common problem. As a result, overall health deteriorates. There may be various life-threatening complications.

What are the effects of sleep apnea?

If we do not treat it timely, then it increases various health problems. These include:

  • Stroke.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Heart attack, irregular heartbeat and heart failure.
  • Stress. (Also learn stress management technique).
  • Depression.
  • Concentration problem.
  • Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Headaches.
  • Diabetes.
  • Worsening of ADHD.

There are several treatments available for sleep apnea. But it depends upon the cause and severity. However, the goal of this treatment is to regularize breathing while in sleep. (Also know how to set goals).

If regularization of breathing happens, then the followings will occur:

  • At first, the man will get rid of daytime fatigue.
  • Secondly, it will eliminate unnecessary psychological health changes because of a shortage of sound and sufficient sleep.
  • Moreover, it will protect cardiovascular changes due to excessive pressure of improper breathing.

Lifestyle changes that may fix sleep apnea:

treatment of sleep apnea

source google image

Most importantly, the significant first step for the treatment is to bring some lifestyle modifications. These may include:

1.Weight loss:

If you are overweight, then try to lose weight naturally. To tell the truth, all the people with sleep apnea are not obese or overweight. But a lot of obese face the problem. Some tests revealed that if these persons can lower their weight, even a little, then they improve their condition.

2. Eat healthily:

It means eating the necessary amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates. The foods must contain the required amount of antioxidants. It should be sugar-free as well as cholesterol-free. It is seen that sleep apnea affected people generally eat unhealthy foods. They eat more protein and fat as well as saturated fat. Instead, they will follow healthy eating habits. You may also try the following items

3. Side sleeping:

Indeed, it is seen that if the affected persons sleep on their back, then the problem aggravates. If they practice side sleeping, then the problem diminishes.

4. Quit smoking:

It augments swelling in the upper airway. It may aggravate symptoms of snoring as well as a cessation of breathing.

5. Stop taking alcohol:

Alcohol lowers the muscle tone in the back of the throat.  It may obstruct the airflow. So it aggravates sleep apnea.

6. Develop a good sleep routine:

The trouble of sound and sufficient sleep may be helpful to crave carbs. Deficiency in Zzz’s and fatigue may change leptin and ghrelin hormones. They control our hunger along with fullness. Therefore, when you are tired, you tend to eat more and feel less satisfied.

7. Take charge of your allergies:

If you are facing nasal allergies, then breathing and sleeping is harder. As a matter of fact, our airway is a long muscular tube which runs from our nose to windpipe. At the time of allergies, our upper throat swells and thereby narrows the airway. Therefore, breathing is troublesome.


If these lifestyle changes fail to improve your situation or your sleep apnea is moderate to severe, then there are several therapies.

Therapies of sleep apnea:

In the first place, certain devices assist to open up the blocked airway.

Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy:

This is not only the best reliable and common but also easy to handle. With the help of a mask, this therapy provides a constant supply of gentle as well as positive pressure air. This air pressure is slightly more compared to that of the surroundings. Indeed, this is perfectly sufficient to hold the upper airway passage open. As a result, it prevents sleep apnea and snoring.

Some people face problem while using CPAP. They find it either uncomfortable or cumbersome. Therefore, they stop the treatment in the midway without attaining any permanent benefit. Anyhow, with repeated practice, they can absorb the tension of the straps on the masks.

However, some suitable adjustments may be done to make the equipment more fruitful. Moreover, you may choose from other types of masks which one is more comfortable for you.

But, do not stop using the machine.

Other airway pressure devices:

It is another way to treat sleep apnea. If CPAP creates a problem for you, then you can use auto-CPAP. In fact, it will regulate the pressure automatically while you are in sleep. Besides, there are BPAP units available in the market. It supplies bilevel positive airway pressure. This means the device provides more pressure at the time of inhaling along with less while exhaling.

Oral appliances for sleep apnea:

This is another available option. Here you wear an oral appliance. It helps to hold your throat open.

Mandibular repositioning device (MRD):

At first, this is a made-to-order oral appliance. It works well for individuals who have moderate or mild OSA. During sleep, this appliance holds the jaw of the affected person in a forward position. The goal of it is to enlarge the space behind the tongue. It opens the upper air path. As a result, it prevents sleep apneas.

There may be some side effects like jaw or tooth pain. Besides, it may aggravate the temporomandibular joint disease.

As a matter of fact, several devices are there in the market. You just need to find out the best as well as suitable for you. Once you find it out, then you need to keep in touch with your doctor. This is to ensure that it is still working well for you.

Surgery for sleep apnea:

If all the above sleep apnea treatments fail, then you have to undergo surgery. There are several surgical measures available for the treatment of OSA that can fruitfully expand the airway.

Surgery is done to remove enlarged tonsils as well as excess tissue. It is also used either to shrink or stiffen obstructing tissues. What process will be suitable depends upon the extent of the surgery.

Surgery may be as follows:

  • Tissue shrinkage: This is effective for mild to moderate sleep apnea.
  • Creating a new air passageway(tracheostomy).
  • Jaw repositioning.
  • Tissue removal.
  • Bariatric or weight-loss surgery.
  • Remove enlarge adenoids or tonsils.
  • Nerve stimulation.

If we do not treat sleep apnea, then it can affect us severely. For this see the risk factors above.

What sleep position is best for sleep apnea?

The lateral sleeping position is the best for it. Researchers have suggested this for the sufferers of it. During sleep, the airways are more stable in this position and less likely to restrict air.

How can I fix sleep apnea naturally?

Read lifestyle changes carefully. You will get your answer.

Can you really die from sleep apnea?

It is very hard to answer this question. But, it is closely associated with some life-threatening conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes. Therefore, it may lead to sudden cardiac death. If you or anyone of your family, find symptoms of sleep apnea, then take necessary steps without delay. Do not ignore it.

What is it like to die from sleep apnea?

In fact, it is hardly a direct cause of death. But it will aggravate some fatal, life-risking diseases.

Does sleep apnea shorten life span?

Several studies revealed that life expectancy of people below fifty years of age is lowered by 8-18 years.

However, your doctor will help you to suggest the best and most suitable sleep apnea treatment for you. At the same time, you may also undergo some improvement measures at home. They will not only better your current problem, but also boost your overall health condition.


Treatment of sleep apnea will help to better some other conditions also. Improve your quality of life and live life to the fullest. Not only that, but it will also improve your level of happiness.

Hope this article will help you a great deal. I have some other topics which will help you in many ways in your future life. If you wish, then you can read the followings.

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About the author

Banani Chakraborty

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