What Is Sleep Apnea And What Causes It?


Frequent moments of sudden stops in breathing during sleep are known as sleep apnea. Typically, daytime fatigue and loud snoring are the most common symptoms of most people with sleep apnea. The disorder is divided into central sleep apnea (CSA) and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A constriction of the airway responsible for pauses in breathing is OSA. At the same time, CSA is neurological - a communication disconnect between the muscles that regulate our respiratory system and brain.

Indicators of Central Sleep Apnea

CSA's most prevalent symptoms include the following:

  • Abrupt chest discomfort at night and difficulty breathing
  • Chronic fatigue during the day that interferes with one's daily life
  • Erratic breathing patterns, such as breathing that quickens, slows down, or stops for some time during sleep
  • Challenged concentration
  • Frequent or unexplainable nighttime wake-ups
  • Headaches upon waking up in the morning

Indicators of Obstructive Sleep Apnea

OSA's most prevalent symptoms include the following:

  • Noisy snoring that's accompanied by sudden gasping or choking
  • Dry mouth in the morning
  • Chronic morning headaches that may linger throughout the day after waking up
  • Insomnia - frequent periods of waking up throughout the night
  • Agitation and moodiness
  • Increase in nighttime urination
  • Poor ability to focus
  • Persistent fatigue throughout the day

Contributing Factors to Central Sleep Apnea

There is no specific cause that directly results in CSA, although it can be connected to secondary health conditions, the environment, or medications in some cases.

  • High altitudes of at least 15,000 feet are known to cause Central Sleep Apnea during sleep.
  • CSA can occur after consuming opiate medications such as oxycodone and morphine. This is due to the common side effect of opiates, which slows down the respiratory system.
  • Central Sleep Apnea can occur in an individual with poor kidney function and heart conditions.
  • CSA, combined with a specific Cheyne-Stokes breathing rhythm, is possible in individuals with kidney failure, heart failure, or

stroke history.

Contributing Factors to Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Being overweight or morbidly obese is the leading contributor to Obstructive Sleep Apnea among adults, directly correlating with the mouth and throat and the soft tissue lining them. The relaxed state of this tissue during sleep causes airway obstruction.

Overweight or obese individuals with Obstructive Sleep Apnea account for over half of people diagnosed with OSA. A Body Mass Index (BMI) between 25 - 29.9 is considered overweight, while a BMI of at least 30.0 is considered obese. The circumference of your neck is also an indicator of obesity. In males, this measurement would be more than 17 inches (43 centimeters); in females, a neck measurement of more than 15 inches (38 centimeters) indicates obesity and a higher risk factor for OSA.

Additional factors or risks connected to Obstructive Sleep Apnea Include:

  • A rounded head
  • An overabundance of hormone-related growth
  • Substance abuse (smoking, alcohol, or drugs)
  • Structural abnormalities with the septum
  • Allergies
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Health conditions that limit upper airway function
  • A narrowed throat