Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. These interruptions in breathing or pauses, known as apneas, can last for a few seconds to minutes and may occur many times throughout the night. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include sleep snoring, abrupt awakenings, and excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea can lead to daytime fatigue and other health issues if not properly treated.

There are three main types of Sleep Apnea:
  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): It is caused by a blockage in the airway, usually when the soft tissue at the back of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea (CSA): It results from a failure of the brain to send the appropriate breathing. The airway is not blocked, but the brain’s signalling is disrupted.
  • Complex sleep apnea syndrome (Treatment-emergent central sleep apnea): A combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea, often occurring when someone with OSA develops CSA after starting continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment.  
What are the symptoms of sleep apnea:
  • Loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing during sleep, often observed by a bed partner
  • Abrupt awakenings with a choking or gasping sound
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty paying attention or staying alert during the day

What are the risk factors of sleep apnea:
  • Obesity
  • Being male
  • Family history
  • Use of alcohol, sedatives, or tranquilliser
  • Smoking
  • Neck circumference (a thicker neck may narrow the airway)
  • Age (risk increases with age)

Sleep apnea can also contribute to insomnia. The repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep characteristic of sleep apnea can lead to frequent awakenings throughout the night. These awakenings, often accompanied by choking or gasping, can disrupt the normal sleep cycle and prevent individuals from reaching deeper, more restorative stages of sleep. The fragmented sleep caused by sleep apnea can result in the symptoms of insomnia, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep. 

How is sleep apnea treated?

Sleep apnea can be treated through various methods. Lifestyle changes like weight loss and positional therapy may help. Continuous airway pressure (CPAP) is a common treatment where a machine delivers air pressure through a mask to keep the airways open. Other options include dental devices, surgery, and in some cases, lifestyle adjustments.
Untreated sleep apnea can have various health consequences, so it’s crucial to seek medical evaluation if symptoms are present. So, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare professional, a healthcare professional will determine the appropriate course of action based on the type and severity of sleep apnea.