Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
While just about anybody can become afflicted with obstructive sleep apnea, there are factors that make getting obstructive sleep apnea more likely:
- Weight- People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have sleep apnea than those that maintain a healthy weight. Sleep apnea can often be caused by excess fatty tissues that become built up in the neck and throat. This can lead to restrictions in airflow as the upper respiratory system’s pathway is narrowed or pinched off during sleep.
- Age– As people age their muscles begin to lose muscle tone. This is also true of the muscles in the throat. As throat muscles lose definition, they become weaker and more likely to collapse into the airways during sleep.
- Enlarged tonsils or adenoids are the leading cause of obstructive sleep apnea in children but can also affect adults who never had a tonsillectomy when they were younger.
- Natural causes- Some people can be genetically predisposed to having a narrower throat or may have an enlarged tongue that falls back into their airway. If your family has a history of OSA you are more likely to have it yourself.
- Frequent alcohol use- Alcohol relaxes the muscles in the body, and this includes the throat muscles as well which may relax to the point of blocking the airway during sleep.
- Smoking– Smoke is an irritant to the lungs, throat, and esophagus. It can cause inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airways that can impede airflow.
Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea
- Snoring that is loud, disruptive, and regular is one of the most obvious signs of potential OSA. For more information on snoring, click here.
- Frequent breaks in breathing caused by an obstruction. These cessations are often followed by choking or gasping noises as the body’s respiratory system fights through the blockage.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness caused by frequent interruptions of sleep.
- Morning Headaches stem from the loss of oxygen in your bloodstream that flows to your brain as a result of the irregular breathing at night.
- Restless sleep. Sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea often have fitful sleep as their mind and body are constantly awakened throughout the night, pulling them out of the much needed stages of non-REM and REM sleep.
- Depression or irritability. Lack of regular quality sleep can wreak havoc on a person’s mental well-being. Sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea often find themselves feeling short-tempered, and in time it can lead to more severe symptoms of depression.
If you think your troubled sleep may be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea contact your primary physician or your local sleep clinic for a sleep consultation. For more information on diagnosing, treating, and the possible consequences of untreated obstructive sleep apnea click here.