Updated: Aug 3, 2021
Author: Belinda Lin
Editors: Angela Lin and Michael Zhu
Artist: Kevin Li
Have you ever been told that you snore when you sleep? You have probably believed that it’s normal, but snoring can actually be a serious sleeping disorder called sleep apnea. This disorder occurs when one repeatedly has extended periods of pauses in breathing in their sleep, affecting the body’s source of oxygen and quality of sleep. Irritability, morning headaches, and excessive tiredness are all symptoms of the three types of sleep apnea — obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complexed sleep apnea.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea diagnosed amongst adults which is associated with being overweight: a 10% weight gain increases your risk of getting obstructive sleep apnea by 6 times. This results in the thinning of tissues in the
mouth and throat which can cause the blockage of the airway during sleep or a state of delaxation. OSA resulting in children are usually from the enlargement of tonsils, adenoids, and overbites. Although less common, birth defects like Pierre-Robin syndrome can cause OSA too. Pierre-Robin syndrome causes children to have a smaller lower jaw, which causes the tongue to fall back to the throat during sleep.
Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when your brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing, resulting in your body making no effort to breathe. This can cause one to miss several breathing cycles. If the pause in breathing is long enough, it can cause hypoxaemia, or when the percentage of the oxygen in your system drops below
normal; and hypercapnia, or when there is a buildup of carbon dioxide. If there continues to be a lack of oxygen, the levels of blood oxygen in the brain cells will decrease, which can lead to long-term brain damage.
Complex sleep apnea occurs when an individual has been diagnosed with both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea, which, although, can be less frequent, but more critical.
Although sleep apnea is not curable, it is treatable, and it remains hopeful in that there remains many ways to prevent sleep apnea. Warning signs of sleep apnea include excessive daytime tiredness, loud snoring, observed episodes of times when you stop breathing, abruptly waking up and gasping for air. If you observed these traits early on, a better treatment would be available.
“Sleep Apnea.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 28 July
“Sleep Apnea Symptoms & Warning Signs in Adults.” WebMD, WebMD,