About Sleep Apnea: Types and Risk Factors

Sleep apnea is a serious condition. It’s serious because a person stops and starts breathing when they sleep.

Did you know that anyone, even children, can get sleep apnea? Are you aware that there are 3 types of sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

This is the most common form of sleep apnea. Have you ever seen anyone doze off or fall asleep? It seems that the mouth, jaws, and jowls relax as the mouth opens slightly or even more. When this happens, you might hear light snores or even loud snores that could vibrate the house. Just kidding here, but it sure can sound like it could vibrate the house.

As you see the person sleeping, you probably notice that everything is relaxed. Can you imagine seeing your throat muscles relax as well? If your airway narrows or closes, it's difficult to get enough air.1

Gasping for air

That is a horrible feeling, trying to get enough air. It's like your breath is taken away. When this happens, the oxygen levels in your blood decrease. Your brain senses your inability to breathe and wakes you up so that you take a breath.1 I've caught myself coughing and choking. This can happen many times throughout the night. It makes sense that I was always feeling so tired, why I didn't sleep well, and even why I would get grouchy.

Irritable? Hmmm, some say I do, and some say I don't. It's kind of like loud snoring. I still disagree that I do that, no matter what my husband says wink! I have woken myself up when I would jump or have muscle twitches.

Central sleep apnea

When your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control your breathing, this is central sleep apnea. This is the least common form of sleep apnea.1

Your brain fails to transmit signals to your breathing muscles, and you can’t even attempt to breathe for a short period of time. Going to sleep or staying asleep might be difficult.1

Complex sleep apnea syndrome

This is also known as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. This happens when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.1

What factors increase the risk of OSA?

The following factors can increase the risk of developing OSA:1

  • Obesity causes fat deposits to surround the upper airways. Thicker necks mean narrow airways. A narrow airway means a narrow throat. Tonsils and adenoids can enlarge and block the airway.
  • Men are more likely to have sleep apnea than women. However, the risk in women is greater if they are overweight, also after menopause. Older adults are more susceptible to sleep apnea.
  • Genetics can play a role in sleep apnea. Family history can increase your risk.
  • Alcohol, sedatives, and tranquilizers relax the throat muscles. These can be more obstructive with sleep apnea. Those who smoke are 3 times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than those who never smoked.I remember when I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, I was a heavy smoker. It seems that more and more things that were wrong with me were caused by smoking. You are more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea if you have trouble breathing through your nose.
  • Congestive heart failure, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, polycystic ovary syndrome, hormonal disorders, and chronic lung diseases such as asthma are some medical problems that can increase the risk of obstructive sleep apnea.

Taking sleep apnea seriously

Sleep apnea can lead to all kinds of complications that can affect your health. Sadly, some people don’t take sleep apnea seriously. They don’t always realize that they snore, gasp for breath, or might even be risking their lives.

Some of it might be because the person doesn’t want to wear a CPAP mask. Some might not have realized that obesity is one of the main symptoms of sleep apnea. Sadly, some people can even die due to heart problems.

Do the risks of untreated sleep apnea play a major role in your treatment decisions? Tell us more in the comments below!

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