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An Overview of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Aug 17, 2007
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of sleep apnea, and is caused by an obstruction within the airways as a person sleeps.

There may be many reasons why a person suffers from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and here are some of them:

- Narrow Airways: A person may have narrow airways by nature, which although doesn't affect them by day, as the body relaxes during the night, they tend to close up too much causing a person to wake up fighting for breath.

- Inflammation of the airways: A persons airways may become inflamed for many a reason. Smoking, for one, can cause the upper airways to become inflamed, thus narrower. Infections and scar tissue can also narrow the airways.

- Obesity: An obese person isn't simply obese on the outside, but also the inside, and excessive fat in the throat tissues can cause a person breathing problems, particularly during the relaxed sleep period.

When a person suffers from obstructive sleep apnea, what happens is this: Due to the obstruction within the airways, a persons body will continue trying to draw air into the lungs, but will struggle until the brain, in a desperate attempt to re-open a persons airways, breaks a person out of their deep sleep thus tensing up the airways as in the conscious state to allow a person to draw breath. As a person drifts back into deep sleep and the airways relax and obstruct once more, the same thing happens. This may happen repeatedly throughout the night, thus never allowing a person to enter deep sleep for long periods of time.

The result is a person will wake up feeling drowsy and perhaps have a headache from the lack of oxygen. Whilst a person may know the morning they wake whether they have slept well or not according to how they feel, they may be completely unaware they experienced sporadic stoppages in breathing throughout the night, as it all happens in a sleep-like state.

Not only does a person with obstructive sleep apnea have a much higher risk of being involved in daytime accidents due to the inevitable effects of tiredness, but other health issues can develop over the longer term if this disorder isn't treated. Some of the other health issues are:

-Heart failure: Because the lungs are working harder to surmount the obstruction and draw breath, the heart also has to work harder. The result is much stress is placed on the heart which after a long time may result in the heart failing.

-Increased Risk of Strokes / Heart Attacks: As already mentioned, the heart can become damaged which increases the susceptibility to strokes.

-Irregular Heart Beat

-Weakened Immune System: A person needs deep sleep to recharge their system. Without good sleep, the whole body begins to deteriorate, and this includes your immune system. A weaker immune system increases the risk of contracting viral infections and other infections.

-Type 2 Diabetes: Sleep apnea can lead to the onset of Type 2 Diabetes, where the body becomes resistant to insulin, this not allowing glucose to enter parts of the body to be used as energy.

- High Blood Pressure

- Arterial Disease (Hypertension): Due to prolonged high blood pressure, a person may develop arterial disease.

- Increased Carbon Dioxide in the Blood (Hypercapnia)

- Weight Gain

- Sexual Dysfunction

- Other Mental Problems: A person suffering from a lack of sleep is going to feel bad both physically and emotionally, and this can lead to depression, memory impairment, mood swings and more.
About the Author
Detailed information about sleep apnea is available at http://www.sleep-apnea.org.uk
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