All You Need to Know About Adult Sleep Apnea


Do you snore loudly whenever you sleep and feel fatigued during the day? You might be suffering from adult sleep apnea then. This condition involves abnormal breathing and can lead to serious health hazards like heart diseases, strokes and diabetes if left untreated. Read on to know more about what sleep apnea is, how to recognize symptoms of adult sleep apnea, and how it can be treated.

Adult Sleep Apnea

What is Adult Sleep Apnea?

When you are asleep, the air goes in and out of your lungs through your nose and throat in a regular rhythm. Sometimes, this rhythm is interrupted due to an obstruction in the upper airway or a failure of the central nervous system to send your body a signal to breathe. In such a case, you might not get sufficient oxygen and might wake up gasping or choking and taking deep breaths. This is known as adult sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can affect your daily life and cause accidents and errors when you perform daily activities like driving, working or cooking. Around 25% of adults are at risk of being affected to some degree by adult sleep apnea.

Types and Causes of Sleep Apnea:

It is important to know why this condition occurs and what happens, before you can go in for a diagnosis and treatment. Adult Sleep Apnea is of 3 categories:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is caused by an obstruction in the upper airway and is the most prevalent form of sleep apnea. During sleep, the muscles of the throat that control speaking, swallowing, and breathing become relaxed. This narrows your throat and makes you snore, owing to the partial or complete blockage of airflow to your lungs.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: This type is less prevalent than obstructive sleep apnea. It is caused when your brain does not transmit signals to your airway muscles to make you breathe during sleep. It causes you to wake up several times a night with shortness of breath and deprives you of deep, restful sleep.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Risk Factors:

Certain risk factors increase your chances of being affected by adult sleep apnea:

For Obstructive Sleep Apnea, the risk factors are:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Men are at a higher risk of getting sleep apnea
  • Smaller neck circumference
  • Smaller airway: You may have inherited a smaller nose, throat or narrower airway
  • Advanced age: Middle-aged people are at higher risk
  • Family history: If your family members have sleep apnea, you are at a higher risk of getting it
  • Congestion of nasal passage: If you have nasal congestion due to allergies or anatomical issues
  • Smoking: Smoking inflames the lining of your upper airways and causes fluid retention, resulting in sleep apnea.
  • Alcohol and sedatives: Tranquilizers, sedatives, and alcohol relax your throat muscles and aggravate obstructive sleep apnea.

For Central Sleep Apnea, the risk factors are:

  1. Advanced age in male gender
  2. Heart problems: Heart diseases increase the risk of sleep apnea
  3. Pain medications: Opioid medicines and other narcotics increase your chances of getting central sleep apnea

Signs and Symptoms:

Look out for these warning signs of adult sleep apnea. Some of these signs can only be noticed and reported by your partner:

  • Constant, loud snoring all night
  • Gasping, choking or snorting in your sleep
  • Breathing pauses during sleep
  • Waking up with shortness of breath during the night
  • Sleepiness and fatigue in the daytime despite spending 7 hours in bed
  • Irritability, mood swings, and depression
  • Impotence
  • Sore throat or dry mouth upon waking
  • Restless sleep and waking up often at night
  • Forgetting things and having trouble concentrating
  • Headaches in the morning


Sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation and breathing problems which can result in severe complications like high BP, type 2 diabetes, liver problems, cardiovascular diseases, and daytime fatigue. Sleep apnea also causes you to snore loudly, resulting in sleep deprivation for your partner.

Diagnosis and Treatment:

Sleep apnea is diagnosed by a sleep specialist in an overnight study called polysomnogram at a sleep clinic. The test records your heart rate and breathing during your sleep. Other tests include EEG (electroencephalogram) to record brain activity, EMG (Electromyogram) to record muscular activity like grinding teeth and facial twitching, EOG (electro-oculogram) to record eye movements during sleep, ECG (electrocardiogram) to record heart rhythm and rate, and nasal airflow sensor and snore microphone to record airflow and snoring respectively.

Treatment Options for Adult Sleep Apnea Include:

  • Lifestyle changes like losing weight and changing sleep positions.
  • CPAP Device: Continuous positive airway pressure device is a mask connected to a machine and worn over the nose and mouth while you sleep. It delivers a continuous airflow to the nose.
  • Dental Devices: These can be worn in the mouth to help keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Surgery: If an anatomical anomaly is causing obstructive sleep apnea such as a deviated nasal septum, smaller lower jaw with overbite or enlarged tonsils, surgery can correct the problem.
  • Upper Airway Stimulator: This is a device that is implanted under the skin of your chest. A wire detects your breathing pattern and a second wire going to the neck mildly stimulates the nerves controlling the airway muscles to keep the airway open.

If you notice any of the warning signs of sleep apnea, you should get tested right away. You can book an appointment now for such tests, like ECG, EEG and EMG, through Medlife Labs. Early diagnosis will help you take steps to remedy the condition of sleep apnea before it causes further complications.

Also Read:  Infant Sleep Apnea

News on Sleep Apnea:

Sleep Apnea Increases The Risk of Gout

– 18th Jan 2019

The Arthritis and Rheumatology published a study conducted by researchers from Keele University, United Kingdom. The research was conducted by a team of researchers including, Blagojevic-Bucknall, Milica et al. the study analyzed data of nearly 80,000 individuals, over 15,000 of these individuals were diagnosed with sleep apnea in a span of 20 years starting from 1990 to 2010. Nearly 63,000 patients were kept as part of the control group who weren’t diagnosed with sleep apnea. Patterns like sex, age, and practice were considered for analysis. The researchers asserted that in the median time period of 5.8 years, nearly, 5% of patients diagnosed with sleep apnea, and 2.5% without sleep apnea were diagnosed with gout. The researchers further asserted that persons with sleep apnea are at a higher risk of developing gout.



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