what is apnea

What is apnea

Apnea is the cessation of breathing during sleep. By a narrowing of the upper airway apneas occur or breathing stops.

the emergence

During sleep, the muscles relax so that the tongue and the soft tissues of the upper airway (the throat) can collapse and block breathing. The breath holds and the body gets too little oxygen. Due to this lack of oxygen, the patient unconsciously startled half awake and breathing continues.
In many cases a loud snoring sound is made. Problems may occur when this happens frequently and the breathing stops too long.

different types of apnea

There are two main types of apnea:

  • OSAS: obstructive sleep apnea syndrome: The breathing stops due to blocking of the airway
  • CSAS: central sleep apnea syndrome: The brains does not provide give enough signals to breathe.

Although OSAS is the  most common type, a combination of both types is also possible.

how to recognize an apnea patient

The typical OSAS patient is usually male and middle-age, has some overweight, a large collarsize and snores loudly. Also the partner often witnesses apnoeas. Although the patient apparently sleeps well, there is often pronounces tiredness during the day.
Breathing-related sleep disorder can cause morning headaches, irritability, disturbance and daytime fatigue.

consequences of apnea

The patient is in a less deep sleep because of the constant breath arrests. The entire sleep rhythm is disturbed which decreases the quality of sleep and causes sleep fragmentation. As a result the patient does not sleep well and remains sleepy during the day. This OSAS condition leads to limitations in memory, concentration, lack of attention and alertness.
OSAS patients have a higher risk of getting involved in traffic and industrial accidents. Besides that obstructive sleep apnea leads to a high blood pressure, increased heart rate variability, heart failure, myocardial infarction and strokes.
OSAS is more and more seen as an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is associated with premature death.
Further, OSA is associated with a variety of endocrine disorders.

do I have apnea?

An apnea diagnosis requires more research. You need to consult ask your physician to refer you to a specialised sleep center.

nightly symptoms:

  • Heavy snoring
  • Apnoeas
  • Night terrors with the feeling that you choke
  • Decreased sex drive and/or impotence
  • Night sweats
  • Regular nighttime urination
  • Dry mouth when waking

daily symptoms:

  • Morning headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Doze off
  • Arthralgia (pain in joints)
  • Lack of concentration
  • Forgetfulness
  • Chest pain
  • Mood swings
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease

Read more about treatments with dental sleep medicine.