Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Causes, Effects, and Treatment

This article covers sleep apnea symptoms, types, causes, effects, and treatment. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which breathing starts and stops periodically while sleeping. This can prevent your body from getting enough oxygen. Each pause can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and happens many times a night. Loud snoring follows in the most common form.

Sleep Apnea Symptoms

  1. Headache after awakening
  2. Loud wheezing
  3. Panting  for air during sleep because you may suffer from a shortage of breath
  4. Insomnia or arduous to staying asleep
  5. Hypersomnia or feeling sleepy all the day
  6. You may feel a sore throat when awake
  7. Difficulty in concentrating on things during the day
Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Causes, Effects, and Treatment
Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Causes, Effects, and Treatment

Types of sleep apnea:

There are mostly discussed three types of sleep apnea which are given below:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea
  2. Central sleep apnea
  3. Complex sleep apnea

1 – Obstructive sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea it occurs by the repetitive slump of upper air passage while sleeping. This situation may occur when supportive muscles of soft tissues in the throat such as the tongue and palate, relax causing airways to strain or close momentarily to top off your breathing. This may lead to a lower flow of oxygen to your vital organs and cause atypical rhythms of the heart.

Causes of obstructive sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea may occur in all ages but is most common in older people. The major cause for this fact is that most older people are overweighted their BMI ( Body mass index ranges from 25- 29.3 or 30.0 above  Sometimes people who are suffering from lung diseases or kidney failure may face obstructive sleep apnea because this failure leads to accumulation of fluid in upper airways.
  2. Conditions that are endocrine such as hypothyroidism, thyrotoxicosis, sclerocystic ovary syndrome may interfere with your breathing.
  3. Sometimes chronic strokes become the most frequent cause of sleep apnea and can hinder brain signals from reaching the chest muscles or airways for effortless breathing.

2- Central sleep apnea:

Central sleep apnea is a condition in which your airways get not completely obstructed. But your brain’s dysfunction is when the brain does not tell your muscles to take in air. This situation is different from obstructive sleep apnea. This condition is caused when a serious illness affects the lower stem of the brain which is correlated with breathing control. In young babies, sleep apnea causes breaks in breathing that can last for almost 20 seconds.

Symptoms of central sleep apnea:

The main symptoms of central sleep apnea are given below:

  1. Awakening several times during the night
  2. The feeling of being tired throughout the day
  3. Memory problems
  4. Mood swings
  5. Arduous to exercise than usual
  6. Difficulty in paying heed to various things in daily life

Types of central sleep apnea:

Here are several types of central sleep apnea are listed below:

  1. Cheyne stoke breathing
  2. Drug-induced apnea
  3. Hight altitude breathing
  4. Medical conditions inducing sleep apnea
  5. Idiopathic central sleep apnea
Cheyne stokes breathing:

Cheyne stokes respiration is thought to be an upshot of heart stroke or failure. In this process breathing may slow, stops, and starts again in the cycle and is mostly seen in people who are suffering from cardiac failures. Cheyne strokes and breathing increase the risk of sudden cardiac death.

Drug-induced apnea:

Many medications which are narcotics such as opioids- including morphine(  Roxicodone, oxycontin) or codeine can cause your breathing to become uneven, which means your breathing may slower or faster or temporarily stop. Certain sleeping pills are also associated with the risk of sleep apnea as they can suppress your breathing and may spike to intense breathing issues.

Hight altitude breathing issues:

Some people find difficulty when they go at high altitudes of about 8000 feet or more in their breathing because, at high altitudes, a lower level of oxygen content in the blood induces erratic patterns of breathing which may be manifested in form of deep and expeditious breathing causing central apnea.

Medical condition induces sleep apnea:

Various medical conditions such as kidney failure, hypothyreosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Lou Gehrig’s disease damage to the lower brain stem from swelling or injury.

Idiopathic central sleep apnea:

Idiopathic central sleep apnea is distinguished by periodic events of apnea or hypopnea. This is a rare disorder of unclear pathogenesis.

3- Complex sleep apnea:

It is a complex state to understand. Unluckily, even some medical misunderstand the meanings of various diagnoses. In this condition, you have both central sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea.

Effects of Sleep Apnea

If sleep apnea is left untreated it may lead to various negative impacts on health and body such as :

  1. High blood pressure
  2. Diabetes  even glaucoma can increase the risk of death
  3. Cardiac issues
  4. Obesity
  5. Cardiomyopathy( enlargement of tissues and muscles of the heart)
  6. Arrhythmias( Irregular heart beat)
Effects of Sleep Apnea
Effects of Sleep Apnea

How sleep apnea damages your brain??

Research shows that amount of sleep may be lower by a disorder of sleep apnea in persons, this may disrupt the natural process of the body for cleaning the toxic chemicals from the brain during the sleeping process. Experts also believe that panting for air at night while sleeping because of a deficiency of oxygen content damages the brain which may spike hypertension, anxiety, depression, loss of memory, aches in the eyes brain, etc. A national health insurance survey – PMC revealed that the prevalence of malignant tumor risk is higher in patients who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea.

Causes of Sleep Apnea

Food causing sleep apnea

Junk food such as burgers, steaks, lamb, pork, sausage, etc is all meals that are higher in saturated fats. Too much consumption of such food items causes swelling throughout internal organs and also in the airways. Late meal timing is correlated with worsening sleep patterns and disrupts the quality of sleep more than early meal timing.

Depression is a major cause of sleep apnea

According to a study published in September 2019 in a Journal of psychiatrist Research, it was manifested that as many as 14 percent of suicidal adults with depressive disorder were found to have obstructive sleep apnea.

How to diagnose sleep apnea?

If you are proven to have symptoms of sleep apnea, your doctor may ask you to have the tests for sleep apnea known as a polysomnogram.


 Sleep technologists perform this test mostly in hospitals to study a variety of sleep disorders. In this test, your various physical activities such as eye and leg movements, level of oxygen content in blood, heart rate, and brain signals are recorded on automatic machines to diagnose sleep apnea.

Other Tests:

Besides polysomnogram some other tests are also suggested to diagnose sleep apnea:

  1. EEG( Electroencephalogram)
  2. EOG( Electrooculography)
  3. EMG( Electromyography)
  4. Nasal airflow sensors
  5. Snoring microphones

EEG( Electroencephalogram):

In this procedure, small sensors are used to detect electrical signals from the brain. These sensors are connected to an electronic machine that records brain activity in form of signals. This test is considered painless.

EOG (Electrooculography):

EOG is a detective physiological test used in ophthalmology to check out any dysfunctional degeneration or any wound or scratch on the outer half layer of the retina which comprises cones and rods of the ocular system.

EMG( Electromyography)

This test may result in some irritations but is usually painless. This technique is used to assess and record electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles. Its commonly used to detect the health of muscles and nerves which are responsible for the transmission of breathing-related messages.

 Nasal airflow sensors:

Nasal airflow sensors are used to trace the rate of air flowing in the nasal system of the patient that is needed for help in respiration. The basic parts of this device are the flexible thread which is fixed behind ears and a set of two prong-like projections that are fitted in nostrils to measure breathing rate.

Snoring microphone: 

Snoring sensors are based on piezo technology and are used to track all vibrational signals produced by snoring.

Treatment of Sleep Apnea

After the diagnosis of sleep apnea, you may suggest a proper treatment based on the severity of the symptoms. Various medications and therapies are used for treatment.


Different medications are used to relieve sleep apnea which is given below:

  1. Edluar ( zolpidem tartrate)
  2. Ambien (Zolpidem tartrate)
  3. Melatonin receptor agonists such as Hetlioz ( tasimelteon)
  4. Xyrem ( Sodium oxybate) etc.

Research revealed an interesting fact about melatonin, 10mg of melatonin per week improves sleep stabilization in untreated sleep apnea patients with obstructive sleep apnea. In a study of 20 patients, scientists also manifested that taking atomoxetine and oxybutynin as combined medications before going to bed for sleeping reduced the apnea-hypopnea index.

Therapies for the treatment of sleep apnea:

Your doctor after detecting your medical symptoms of sleep apnea will suggest treatment. If symptoms are mild you may ask to modify your lifestyle in a healthy way. But if symptoms are severe then you will suggest other ways of treatment including therapies. Here we will discuss some relevant therapies to treat sleep apnea :

CPAP( Continuous positive airways pressure):

This method uses a machine that gives mild pressure continuously to your nasal airways and keeps them open. Some people feel uncomfortable with Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask then they should talk to their doctor about their point of view for better sleep. If this device is not working well for you then you may also use oral appliances that can help your breathing by keeping your throat open. For this procedure, your dentist can help you to select the best appliance according to your requirements.

Upper Airways Stimulation System (UAS)

This technique is considered a new and advanced method for the treatment of sleep apnea. The inspire upper airway stimulation system consists of small generators to produce impulses inserted beneath the collar bone ( clavicle), a tunneled sensor for breathing fitted between external and intercostal muscles. The tunneled sensors are correlated with a branch of the hypoglossal nerve (the 12th cranial nerve which stimulates intrinsic and extrinsic muscle of the tongue) which leads to tongue protrusion to keep nasal airways open for smooth flow of air and effortless respiration.

How to prevent sleep apnea naturally?

Some natural measures may be adapted to prevent sleep apnea which is given below:

  1. Stop smoking or intake of drugs
  2. Loss of weight because obesity is the leading cause of many sleep disorders including snoring due to the accumulation of fats in throat muscles.
  3. Don’t drink alcohol before bedtime
  4. Select adequate sleeping postures such as don’t sleep on your back it can interfere with air passage
  5. Stop taking narcotics or sedative medications which may spike your sleep disorders
  6. Engage to exercise regularly
  7. Adapt a healthy lifestyle.
  8. Avoiding the consumption of fat saturated foods including junk foods
  9. Stop pondering over baseless things this may reduce your anxiety and in some sense can reduce sleep disruption.

How normal snoring is different from sleep apnea snoring?

How normal snoring is different from sleep apnea snoring
How normal snoring is different from sleep apnea snoring

Snoring due to sleep apnea is distinct from regular snoring. It is not crucial that those who snores has sleep apnea, but snoring is considered a major symptom. Normal snoring may spike due to various factors such as weight gain, use of antidepressants or alcohol, any disturbance issue of throat or nose, back sleeping, and age. On the other hand sleep apnea, snoring occurs in pauses in which you literally stop breathing because your airways slump or are blocked. These pauses may occur for over 10 seconds and this snoring is much louder than normal wheezing.