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Understanding Sleep Apnea - What Are Its Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment?

29 October, 2020 Arindam Chakraborty

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping-related disorder. A person ailing from sleep apnea may experience repeated pauses in breathing while they are asleep. Snoring loudly and feeling tired even after a full night's sleep may indicate sleep apnea.

 Sleep apnea is divided into the following types:

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  2. Central Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition and requires medical supervision to increase the quality of life. Medications are available to treat this condition; however, medications should only be taken under a doctor's supervision. Prescription medicines for sleeping disorders can be purchased from any retail or online pharmacy.

What are the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea?

Symptoms of different types of sleep apnea sometimes overlap with each other making it difficult to determine the type with which a patient is ailing. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  1. Loud snoring
  2. Pauses in breathing during while sleeping
  3. Gasping for air during sleep
  4. Awakening with a dry mouth
  5. Morning headache
  6. Insomnia
  7. Hypersomnia
  8. Attention deficit
  9. Irritability

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat are in a relaxed position. When these muscles are in a relaxed state, the airway closes while breathing, which suppresses the oxygen level in the blood. The brain senses the depleting oxygen levels in the blood and sends signals for reopening the airway.

A person suffering from this condition may experience a loss in the quality of sleep due to repeated awakening phases coupled with snorting, choking, or gasping.

Central sleep apnea is a rare condition in which the brain is unable to transmit signals to the breathing muscles. This condition may keep the patient awake with shortness of breath or having a difficult time staying asleep.

Which Risk Factors are Associated with Sleep Apnea?

Some factors may increase the risk of developing sleep apnea. 

The risk factors may include:

  1. Excessive weight
  2. Neck circumference
  3. Narrow airway
  4. Family members with history of sleep apnea
  5. Use of sedatives and alcohol
  6. Smoking
  7. Nasal Congestion
  8. Preexisting medical conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension

Are There Any Complications Related with Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition and can lead to life-threatening medical complications. Complications for sleep apnea may include:

  1. Daytime fatigue
  2. Difficulty concentrating, which can lead to accidents
  3. Depression
  4. Heart-related issues
  5. Medications and surgical complications

How can Sleep Apnea be Diagnosed?

Doctors may evaluate a patient's condition on the basis of their symptoms and sleep history. Diagnosis of sleep apnea generally involves monitoring the sleep pattern of the patient at a sleep center.

Tests to detect sleep apnea may include:
 1. Nocturnal polysomnography
 2. Home sleep test
 3. Tests for ear, nose, and throat issues
 4. Cardiovascular analysis

Can Sleep Apnea be Treated?

Doctors may recommend lifestyle interventions for milder cases of sleep apnea. In the case of a patient suffering from nasal allergies, doctors recommend treatment regimen allergies. Doctors may also recommend medications for clearing airways and improving sleeping patterns. Certain devices such as nasal strips can help in clearing any obstruction in the airway, which can help to improve the breathing pattern.

Prescription medications and devices are available at retail pharmacies. They can also be purchased through online pharmacy delivery apps.

In complicated cases, doctors may recommend surgical interventions. Surgical options may include:

  1. Tissue removal
  2. Tissue shrinkage  
  3. Jaw repositioning
  4. Olfactory implants
  5. Nerve stimulation
  6. Tracheostomy
  7. Bariatric surgery
  8. Lifestyle interventions and home remedies


Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of sudden deaths worldwide. It is a serious medical condition and requires medical supervision to increase the quality of life. Lifestyle changes like losing weight, maintaining standard body mass index (BMI), avoiding alcohol, and quitting smoking can also help in the management of the symptoms related to sleep apnea.