Sleep Apnea – Causes and Symptoms

Sleep Apnea


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Sleep Apnea is a condition in which there are intervals or pauses in breathing during the night. There are three types of sleep apnea: central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, and mixed sleep apnea.

Causes of Sleep Apnea:

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Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in the airway that prevents breathing from entering or exiting the lungs. Central Sleep Apnea is when your brain does not send messages to the muscles that control the breath, while Mixed Sleep Apnea is a combination of Central and Obstructive Sleep Apneas.

There are several causes of sleep apnea, including:

Medical Conditions.



Excessive alcohol consumption.

Some prescription drug side effects.

Those who suffer from heartburn may experience central sleep apnea. Sleep Apnea can be caused by some medications as well as medical conditions such as heart failure, heart defects, cerebrovascular disease, and high blood pressure.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

Many people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea are unaware that they have the condition because the symptoms are only present while asleep. These include snoring, choking, gasping for air while sleeping, and even falling asleep while driving or talking. High blood pressure, stroke, diabetes are all possible complications of sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea Treatment:

An overnight evaluation in a sleep lab can diagnose this disorder. The treatment options depend on the type of sleep apnea found by the doctor through polysomnography testing. Treatments range from lifestyle modifications to surgery or appliances that keep your airway open at night.

Change in Lifestyle:

Lifestyle changes to relieve sleep apnea symptoms:

Weight Loss:

Losing weight is the best way to treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea. If you are overweight, losing just 10 – 15 pounds can reduce your symptoms significantly without medication or surgery.

Quit Smoking:

Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes narrow blood vessels leading to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Quitting smoking may help ease OSA symptoms.

Minimize Alcohol Consumption:

Reducing your alcohol intake will decrease snoring and choking while sleeping. Drinking too much before bedtime is a common cause of snoring and sleep apnea as it relaxes throat muscles which can block your breathing passage during sleep.

Consult a Dentist:

Invest in a custom-made mouthguard or splint to minimize the effects of sleep apnea. These devices hold the jaw forward and make it easier for airflow through your throat.

Sleep Position:

Sleep on the side rather than the stomach as this eliminates blockage in the throat. If you prefer sleeping on your back, use a wedge pillow that elevates the upper body slightly so that gravity does not force your tongue against your throat while asleep. You can also try weight loss surgery if other measures fail to reduce snoring and gasping episodes while sleeping. A doctor can work with you to develop an individual plan for treating OSA.


It is important to know the difference between Central Sleep Apnea, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and Mixed Sleep Apnea. If you are suffering from any of these sleep disorders, it may have serious consequences on your health including high blood pressure or stroke. Treatment options range from lifestyle modification to surgery depending on what type of apnea was found by a doctor during an overnight evaluation in a sleep lab.

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