What Causes Sleep Apnea and How Can It Be Treated?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects between 5 and 10% of people worldwide. It is caused by airway obstruction or when the brain does not control breathing properly. Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, waking up short of breath, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and recurrent heart attacks, strokes, and abnormal heartbeats. Treatment for sleep apnea includes positive airway pressure devices, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption, and making structural changes to the airway.

With the right treatment, people with sleep apnea can see immediate improvements in their sleep.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes the airway to collapse or block while you sleep. It can be caused by obstructive apnea, which is when the airway is blocked, or central apnea, which is when the brain does not control breathing properly. Obstructive sleep apnea can increase the risk of having a recurrent heart attack, stroke, and abnormal heartbeats such as atrial fibrillation.

How is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea based on your symptoms and responses, they will likely recommend you get tested for it. This involves being connected to a portable machine and having monitoring cables placed on your body to monitor your sleep during the night.

What Treatments are Available for Sleep Apnea?

Treatment for sleep apnea depends on the type of sleep apnea and its severity.

Positive airway pressure devices are often used to treat sleep apnea. These devices push air through a hose that connects to a special mask that is placed on your face while you sleep. Older devices may require some adjustments and settings, but many newer devices usually automatically adjust to meet your needs.People with sleep apnea should also avoid excessive alcohol consumption and frequent use of sleeping pills or other drugs that cause intense sedation. Structural changes may also be necessary if the cause of the apnea is a structural problem.

Can Sleep Apnea be Prevented?

For people with obstructive sleep apnea, lifestyle changes such as losing weight and quitting smoking can help reduce or even eliminate the effects of sleep apnea in their life.

People with central sleep apnea cannot prevent it since it is caused by a structural problem.

What Results Can I Expect from Treating Sleep Apnea?

Devices that treat sleep apnea usually produce very fast results. Many people see immediate improvements when they sleep through the night using a positive airway pressure device.

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