Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Types, Causes & Symptoms


Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the three types of sleep apnea disorder. Sleep apnea victims experience irregular breathing phases in different instances through their sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by breathing halts or pauses that are unintentional and due to relaxation of the throat muscles.

The condition is recurring and will occur every time you sleep. As your throat muscles relax, it limits air moving from the nose to the lungs. Snoring and tiredness after sleep are some telltale effects that you may be dealing with obstructive sleep apnea.

In addition, obstructive sleep apnea can result in other illnesses, namely high blood pressure, heart complications, and stroke. Due to lower oxygen levels, you may also experience restlessness during sleep, headaches, low concentration, and dizziness upon waking up. If you have sleep apnea, you need not worry as there exist some treatment plans.

A sleeping device will maintain necessary pressure to keep your throat muscles from contracting. In other cases, a sleep apnea dentist may offer you a tongue retaining mouthpiece to ease breathing when asleep.

Types of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea types are categorized by how long breathing pauses or the extent of reduced airflow. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is of three types:

  • Apnea-It occurs when you cease breathing for usually 10 seconds.
  • Hypopnea-Here your airflow is significantly low for about 10 seconds, but you can still breathe. However, breathing may be difficult.
  • Respiratory effort related arousal-With the RERA type, one needs more effort than normal to breathe during sleep. The restricted airflow and breathing, in turn, lead to you feeling aroused.

Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

As established earlier, throat muscles over relaxing solely trigger this condition. The throat muscles are responsible for upholding the uvula, tongue, tonsils, and the mouth’s upper backside. Thus, all these parts may affect your breathing when you sleep.

Ultimately after roughly 10 seconds of low airflow or not breathing, your body is stressed, and you unknowingly wake up to restore breathing. At this point, you may loudly snore or gasp for breath while still closing your eyes.

In case your tonsils swell up or you suffer from irregular breathing, you are also liable to experiencing obstructive sleep apnea. Other known causes for this condition may include obesity and heart complications.

The causes of sleep apnea are general to everyone, but some people may be at more risk of contracting obstructive sleep apnea. Below are some of the risk factors to watch out for.

  • Hypertension-Not only can this be a health effect of obstructive sleep apnea, but it also puts you at risk of this sleep disorder.
  • Older people are more likely to get diagnosed.
  • Smoking or living with a smoker
  • Diabetes
  • Nasal congestion when sleeping due to lower temperatures
  • Men are more likely to get obstructive sleep apnea than women. However, older women are also at high risk.
  • If any members of your family suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, you also carry a high potential of suffering from this sleep disorder.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea, like all sleep disorders, mainly interferes with healthy sleep patterns. Some of these symptoms are also obstructive sleep apnea’s negative effects. The symptoms are as follows.

  • Feeling sleepy or drowsy while you are awake.
  • Feeling tired when you are awake or right after you wake up.
  • Experiencing headaches in the morning or throughout the day. The headaches are characterized by persistence even after taking painkiller medication.
  • Low concentration or a short memory span
  • Irritability and depression due to accumulative lack of proper sleep and energy
  • Tossing and turning or snoring loudly when you sleep
  • Due to low oxygenation, you may experience a reduced sex drive or libido.
  • Children may be more hyperactive than normal or appear sluggish during the day, even after proper rest.
  • Swelling of your legs, which will need you to seek a sleep professional’s help immediately.
  • Sweating at night
  • Choking while you sleep

Please note that these symptoms are guidelines and not necessarily a diagnosis. Other illnesses or sleep disorders may show similar symptoms. When you spot these signs, visit your healthcare professional at once.

In addition, a larger portion of obstructive sleep apnea victims may not notice their snoring or restlessness during sleep. As such, be on the lookout for your family or friends if you sleep in the same room or share beds.


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