What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from ten seconds to minutes, and may occur five times or more an hour. Similarly, each abnormally shallow breathing event is called a hypopnea.
Sleep apnea is a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep and consequently, you spend more time in light sleep and less time in deep, restorative sleep. This ultimately leads to excessive daytime sleepiness.
What are the Causes of Sleep Apnea?
OSA occurs when there is an obstruction of the airway and air cannot flow through the nose or mouth during sleep, even though the body is still trying to breathe.
The main factors that contribute to sleep apnea include:
Different structure of the mouth: A thick, long soft floppy palate or an enlarged uvula can narrow airway passages and cause obstruction. Large tonsils and a large tongue can also be the source of the obstruction that causes sleep apnea.
Nasal congestion: Nasal congestion can play a significant role in sleep apnea. A deviated septum, enlarged turbinates, nasal polyps, or enlarged adenoids can all obstruct airflow.
Being overweight: Weight can impact sleep apnea. Extra weight around the neck can narrow the airway and make it difficult to breathe.
Alcohol consumption and eating late at night: Drinking and late-night eating can relax the muscles in the throat, making obstruction more likely and increasing the episodes of sleep apnea.