Irregular and brief pauses in breathing during sleep are called sleep apnea syndrome. The worst outcome of this syndrome is sudden death. Men are more susceptible to this syndrome, this is due to the abdominal type of breathing, the structure of the pharynx and larynx, and the position of the diaphragm. Deviations can be identified by constant snoring during sleep. Alcohol abuse, to which some men are susceptible, also affects.
There is a certain norm in which the cessation of breathing during sleep should fit, which sometimes happens even in healthy people. It should not exceed five times in one hour, and its duration cannot be more than ten seconds.
The essence of the problem
Sleep apnea affects adults and the elderly. According to researchers, 60% of people over 65 years of age suffer from such pauses in breathing during sleep, and more men than women. Another risk group for this disease is people who use various psychotropic substances, such as barbiturates .
“Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome” is the name of the condition of the body in which proper breathing is disturbed during a person’s sleep. They cause a short-term cessation of breathing in a dream or its sharp interception.
What is apnea? There are several types of this syndrome:
- In the first type of sleep apnea, the soft tissue of the throat and the muscles relax so much that they collapse and block the airways. If in this position breathing becomes intermittently disturbed for more than ten seconds, then this is apnea.
- The second type is hypopnea . With it, there is also respiratory arrest, but the difference is that the airways are half blocked by tissues. If such a process has a duration of ten seconds, it is hypopnea .
- There is also central sleep apnea. Its cause is no longer soft tissues that block the path. With central apnea, there is a disturbance in the brain, the latter does not send signals that cause muscle contraction for normal breathing, in other words, the person “forgets to breathe”. Breath catches. It may stop.
Sleep structure and apnea
Sleep is a normal physical state of any organism. Sleep is a condition for the normal functioning of the brain. Any living organism needs to go through several stages of deep sleep in order to fully restore its strength. If these episodes of sleep are not enough, the body runs the risk of not fully recovering, then there will be fatigue and lack of sleep throughout the day.
For a stable and proper functioning of the body, a person needs to devote at least eight hours to sleep, and about 25% of the time should be spent on a deep sleep phase, which should not be interrupted.
People with the syndrome in question may experience episodes of hypopnea and apnea several times a night. At the time of sleep apnea, there is a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the lungs, which leads a person to exit the stage of deep sleep into one in which breathing can stop or full awakening occurs.
These episodes can be so frequent that the person wakes up two or three times in one minute. People with this syndrome most often have rather noisy intermittent breathing, there is snoring and a sharp fading of breath. It is this condition that most often causes lack of sleep, physical fatigue and fatigue. People with sleep apnea have memory lapses, they do not remember why they woke up, and that sleep was interrupted at all.
Factors that exacerbate sleep apnea syndrome
- The main cause of the disease is excess weight. People suffering from it automatically move into the risk group. It is the excess adipose tissue deposited in the neck that increases the load on the throat. And excess fat on the abdomen leads to a load on the diaphragm, which is the main respiratory muscle that separates the abdominal cavity from the sternum, which leads to this disease, accompanied by snoring.
- Another factor is the structural features of a person, for example, thin airways or a large tongue, a small lower jaw, and much more. All this, regardless of a person’s lifestyle, can lead to the appearance of sleep apnea syndrome, which will be accompanied by constant snoring.
- Also affects heredity. If there is a person with sleep apnea in the family, there is a high chance that it will be passed on to close relatives. Menopause in women can also cause sleep apnea, as hormonal changes occur in a woman’s body during this period.
- For diabetics, the risk of the disease is three times higher. An equally high risk of apnea is in people with chronic or intermittent nasal congestion, septal fractures and its further curvature, in which case the nasal passage narrows and its ventilation occurs.
Symptoms of sleep apnea in adults are very revealing: constant sleepiness throughout the day, lack of ability to concentrate on work, frequent headaches, sore throat and dry mouth, development of depression and irritability.
Often this symptom is observed in newborns. Almost 60% of infants are susceptible to this disease, and in premature babies, this figure reaches 90%.
The main factor causing causes of respiratory arrest during sleep is considered to be an incompletely formed center for regulating breathing, which is located in the medulla oblongata. The center reacts to low oxygen levels and signals the airways.
In infants, this center may not respond as quickly and smoothly, so their breathing during sleep may temporarily stop for more than ten seconds (apnea). But after a few weeks, the process of work is normalized, the disease goes away by itself. Parental fear when the baby stops breathing is associated with sudden death syndrome, but the connection between these events has not been proven.
Modern diagnostics and treatment of sleep apnea syndrome
The main current diagnostic is the experience of observing a sleeping person with sleep apnea. Therefore, when the symptoms of apnea listed above appear, doctors advise first of all to monitor the patient. This is done by someone close to you. Observation will help to understand and establish the essence of the problem. Then the treatment of respiratory arrest during sleep is prescribed.
The first thing that is done is a survey and tests that will show the presence of a possible disease. And the second stage will be monitoring the patient during sleep for further diagnosis.
After a person is diagnosed with apnea, he has a question about whether this disease can be cured. It is recommended to consult with a specialist, since each patient with such a diagnosis may have its own characteristics of the course of the disease, which means that the requirements for treatment will be different.
At the initial stage of treatment, it is recommended to get rid of bad habits such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption. It is worth visiting a nutritionist who will suggest a suitable diet in order to get rid of excess weight, if any. These small lifestyle changes can make a big difference.
If the disease is in a neglected state, a person is prescribed CPAP therapy. This treatment involves the use of a special apparatus that promotes proper breathing at night. During sleep, you must wear a mask that covers your nose (or nose and mouth at the same time).
The operation of the device is carried out in such a way that a continuous air flow is created, which, under pressure, penetrates the respiratory tract and prevents soft tissues from sinking, as a result of which it prevents the development of apnea, and also reduces the likelihood of snoring. Modern devices operate completely silently and have many functions, such as air humidification, so that each patient can customize the operation of the CPAP device for themselves.