Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing and shallow breathing during sleep. It can be dangerous and have serious health consequences if left untreated. There are several causes for sleep apnea, as well as a range of symptoms and treatments.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when the muscles at the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep. Other causes of sleep apnea include obesity, smoking, alcohol use, family history, and certain physical features, such as a large neck circumference or a recessed chin.
The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring, often accompanied by gasping or choking sounds as breathing resumes. Other symptoms may include daytime sleepiness or fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and morning headaches. Sleep apnea can also cause frequent waking during the night or difficulty staying asleep.
The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves wearing a mask over the nose or mouth during sleep. The mask is connected to a machine that delivers a continuous flow of air pressure to keep the airway open. Other treatments may include lifestyle changes, such as losing weight or quitting smoking, or surgery to remove blockages in the airway.
In some cases, dental devices may be used to reposition the jaw and tongue to keep the airway open. Positional therapy, which involves sleeping in a specific position to prevent the airway from becoming blocked, may also be helpful.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have serious health consequences if left untreated. If you are experiencing symptoms of sleep apnea, it is important to talk to your doctor about your options for treatment. By identifying the causes of your sleep apnea and finding an effective treatment, you can improve your sleep and overall health.