Sleep apnea is a condition that can appear at any age and that affects 4% of males, 2% of females and 0.7% of children. Despite its high incidence, it is often misunderstood and underestimated, which can lead to complications and negative lifestyle changes. But what is it exactly? More specifically, sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when the patient has at least 10 apneas (pauses in breathing) per hour of sleep. Apnea means that air flow is obstructed for at least 10 seconds and in this short period oxygen cannot reach the brain. There are types of sleep apnea: obstructive (OSA), central and mixed. About 80% of all sleep apnea cases are diagnosed as OSA.

What causes sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a complex disorder whose causes can range from hereditary to self-induced. According to the experts at SleepTech , risk factors also play a big role and it’s important to understand that many of these factors can be prevented:
- Overweight people are four times more likely to develop sleep apnea compared to people with normal weight. This happens because the fat deposits around the upper airway obstruct airflow.
- Large neck circumference: >17 inches in men and >15 inches in women.
- Men over 40 are at a higher risk of developing OSA as opposed to women, who have a lower risk.
- A family history of sleep apnea.
- Alcohol and/or drug abuse
- Smoking
- Nasal congestion caused by a deviated septum or sinus problems
- Gastroesophageal reflux
- Heart disease
- People who have had a stroke

Sleep apnea symptoms

Sleep apnea has clear symptoms, but, because they occur while the affected person is sleeping, the condition can go undiagnosed for years.

At night, apnea causes symptoms such as:

- Agitated sleep
- Snoring
- Sore or dry throat caused by restricted airflow
- Waking up in the middle of the night with a gasping sensation

Low sleep quality also causes additional symptoms that can be noticed during the day, such as constant fatigue, sleepiness and irritability. Headaches can also occur and people with sleep apnea feel that they are always tired, no matter how much they sleep. In many cases, people are not aware that they have a sleep disorder and they are told by their partners that they should seek medical attention.

Is sleep apnea dangerous?

The short answer is yes. Sleep apnea is a dangerous disorder and, contrary to what many people believe, it’s not just snoring. It is serious health condition that requires treatment, otherwise it will take a toll on the patient’s life in many ways. First of all, when left untreated, sleep apnea increases the risk of other health problems, including:

- High blood pressure, heart disease and heart attacks
- Strokes
- Headaches
- Depression
- Worsening of behavioral disorders such as ADHD in children

Secondly, not getting a good night’s sleep has unpleasant side effects that can be just as harmful. Sleep apnea breaks the sleep cycle, so the body cannot fully recover. People with sleep apnea wake up exhausted and they cannot concentrate at work. They constantly feel moody, irritated, unhappy and depressed, so their social relations are eventually affected. Even worse, the feeling of tiredness causes a loss in concentration and there are many cases of people with OSA who fall asleep at the wheel and cause car accidents.

Management and treatment

Given all these risks and complications, it is obvious that sleep apnea needs treatment. Fortunately, the latest developments in medical technology have made this disorder easier to manage and if you seek medical treatment, you will be able to enjoy a normal life. After conducting some tests, your doctor will recommend a treatment based on the severity of the condition. There are three stages to this process:

1.Lifestyle changes

Some unhealthy habits can cause or worsen sleep apnea, so the doctor might recommend you to lose weight and give up smoking. Refraining from drinking before bedtime can also help. Also, people with OSA are usually advised to change sleeping positions and avoid sleeping on their back.

2.Airway pressure devices

Airway pressure devices are a safe and effective way of improving the symptoms of sleep apnea. Continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, is recommended more moderate and severe apnea and involves placing a mask over your nose while you sleep. CPAP devices raise the air pressure and keep it constant, which prevents obstruction. If the problem persist, then the doctor will suggest BiPAP machines, which automatically adjust air pressure. Both of these devices are easy to find and they can be ordered online, along with home testing kits for sleep apnea.


Surgery is usually a last resort and doctors recommend it when a patient has been tried all the other methods for at least three months with no improvement. Depending on what causes the obstruction, you can have surgery to remove tissue at the back of your throat, reposition your jaw, straighten a deviated septum or remove polyps.

Author's Bio: 

Cynthia Madison is a young blogger and economics and marketing graduate. She writes about home, lifestyle and family topics and is a senior contributor to popular niche publications.