Common causes of sleep apnea you need to know

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Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s characterized by pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep.

These interruptions can occur many times each night and can lead to a host of health problems if left untreated. This article explores the common causes of sleep apnea, presented in an easy-to-understand format, backed by research evidence.

Sleep apnea can be categorized mainly into two types: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is the most common form, and central sleep apnea. OSA occurs when the muscles in the throat relax excessively during sleep, causing a physical blockage of the airflow.

Central sleep apnea, on the other hand, happens when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. While both types can be serious, this article focuses on the more prevalent obstructive sleep apnea.

Here are some of the well-documented causes and risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea:

Obesity: A key risk factor for OSA is excess body weight. Fat deposits around the upper airway can obstruct breathing. Research has shown that even a moderate amount of excess weight can increase the risk of sleep apnea significantly.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that obese individuals have up to four times the risk of sleep apnea compared to those with a normal weight.

Anatomical characteristics: The structure of your jaw, the size of your tonsils, or having a thick neck can also contribute to narrowing airways. Some people are born with narrow airways or have enlarged tonsils or adenoids that can block the airway during sleep.

According to research in the Archives of Internal Medicine, these anatomical features significantly contribute to the risk of developing OSA.

Age and gender: Sleep apnea is more commonly seen in men than in women and is more likely to occur as people get older. However, after menopause, the risk of sleep apnea in women tends to rise and may equal that of men.

Studies, including those from the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, indicate that hormonal changes in postmenopausal women might play a role in this increased risk.

Family history and genetics: Like many medical conditions, family history can be a strong indicator of your risk for sleep apnea. Genetics can influence the shape of your airway and the likelihood of developing OSA.

A study in the European Respiratory Journal highlighted that having a family member with sleep apnea increases your risk, pointing to a possible genetic predisposition.

Use of alcohol and sedatives: Alcohol and certain medications can relax the muscles in your throat, increasing the risk of airway obstruction during sleep. Research has shown that these substances can exacerbate sleep apnea symptoms by affecting the body’s ability to maintain a clear airway.

Smoking: Smokers are at increased risk of sleep apnea. Smoking may increase inflammation and fluid retention in the airway, which can worsen airway obstruction during sleep.

A report in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine confirms that current smokers are three times more likely to have OSA than non-smokers.

Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through your nose due to an anatomical problem or allergies, you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea. Studies suggest that clearing nasal passages can be an effective way to improve symptoms for some patients.

Understanding these causes can help in the prevention and management of sleep apnea. If you suspect you might have sleep apnea, it’s important to seek professional medical advice.

Treatments can vary from lifestyle changes and using breathing devices at night to surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.

Early diagnosis and treatment can improve your sleep quality and overall health, and reduce the risk of complications associated with this disorder.

If you care about sleep, please read studies about herb that could help you sleep well at night, and these drugs could lower severity of sleep apnea by one third.

For more information about sleep, please see recent studies that coffee boosts your physical activity, cuts sleep, affects heartbeat, and results showing how to deal with “COVID-somnia” and sleep well at night.

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