Chronic Ailments Patient Awareness

Sleep Apnea: What Are The Causes And How Can You Manage It?

What is Sleep Apnea?
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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea affects roughly about 3-7% of the population in India. This sleep disorder causes a person to stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during periods of sleep, this pause in breathing is known as apnea. Because the brain is deprived of oxygen, it briefly awakens to produce better breathing. This sleep-wake cycle throughout the night produces sleep that is interrupted and of poor quality leaving the person exhausted, irritable, anxious, depressed and forgetfulness.

Sleep Apnea can cause the person to underperform at school or work and expose the person to increased health dangers such as accidents, stroke, high blood pressure, heart failure, and diabetes.

Types of Sleep Apnea

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea

In Obstructive Sleep apnea, there is a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.

  1. Central sleep apnea

Occurs due to instability in the respiratory control center, because of which the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe

  1. Complex sleep apnea syndrome

It is a condition where a person has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea and is also known as treatment-emergent sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are as follows:

  • Sleep: excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia
  • Nightmares
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Snoring Respiratory: episodes of no breathing
  • Abnormal breathing pattern
  • Breathing through the mouth
  • Loud breathing
  • Shallow breathing
  • Also, common: dry mouth, dry throat, fatigue, irritability, headache, depression, mood swings, sexual dysfunction, teeth grinding, or weight gain.


  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea is caused by repetitive episodes of upper airway obstruction during sleep as a result of the narrowing of respiratory passages. As the patient falls asleep, muscles of the nasopharynx begin to relax and the surrounding tissue collapses, causing compromise of the airway.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA) is characterized by a lack of drive to breathe during sleep which results in insufficient or absent ventilation and compromised gas exchange; this occurs because the brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that are responsible to control breathing.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome (CompSAS) is a discreet form of sleep-disordered breathing characterized repeated central apneas (>5/hour) that persist or emerge when obstructive events are extinguished with positive airway pressure (PAP) and for which there is not a clear cause determined such as narcotics or systolic heart failure.

Causes of Sleep Apnea:

Muscular changes: When people sleep, the airway narrows as a result of the relaxation of the muscles of the airway, along with the tongue. Ideally, this relaxation does not prevent the flow of air in and out of the lungs, but this is seen in case of sleep apnea.

Physical obstructions: The presence of additional thickened tissue or excessive fat stores around the airway can restrict the airflow and can cause the loud snoring typically associated with Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Risk factors

Certain factors that increase your risk of developing apneas are:

Obstructive sleep apnea

  • Excess weight.
  • Neck circumference.
  • A narrowed airway.
  • Being older.
  • Family history.
  • Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers.
  • Smoking.
  • Nasal congestion.

Central sleep apnea

  • Being older
  • Heart disorders
  • Using narcotic pain medications
  • Stroke


Treatment of Apnea can be classified based on its severity, duration, and cause symptoms as well as the patient’s lifestyle, comorbidities, and overall health. Treatment often includes lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and the use of a breathing assistance device, such as a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.


Self-care involves Physical exercise and weight loss. Undertaking an aerobic activity for 20-30 minutes 5 days a week and subsequent weight loss improves cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of complications related to obesity.

Supportive care

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): The CPAP pumps a steady flow of air through the nose thus relieving nighttime breathing problems.
  • Airway management: This involves clearing a blocked airway of food, foreign objects, fluid, and other obstructions.
  • Dental Devices: Specifically designed by dentists with special expertise in treating sleep apnea, Dental devices help keep the airway open during sleep.


  • Tonsillectomy: Surgical removal of the tonsils.
  • Adenoid removal: Surgical removal of the adenoids.
  • Palatoplasty: Plastic surgery to repair a split in the roof of the mouth (cleft palate) which is a common birth defect and can be one of the causes of apnea.



Disclaimer: The above information has been prepared by a qualified medical professional and may not represent the practices followed universally. The suggestions listed in this article constitute relatively common advice given to patients, and since every patient is different, you are advised to consult your physician, if in doubt, before acting upon this information. Lupin Limited has only facilitated the distribution of this information to you in the interest of patient education and welfare.

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