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Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour.

Sleep apnea is usually a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep.

As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can’t detect the condition during routine office visits. Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea.

Types of Sleep apnea:

Obstructive sleep apnea

Is the most common type of sleep apnea. In this condition, the airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This causes shallow breathing or breathing pauses. When you try to breathe any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring.Obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone including children.

Central sleep apnea

Is a less common type of sleep apnea. This disorder occurs if the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. As a result, you’ll make no effort to breathe for brief periods. Central sleep apnea can affect anyone. However, it’s more common in people who have certain medical conditions or use certain medicines. Snoring typically doesn’t happen with central sleep apnea.

Untreated sleep apnea can result in:

  • Increase the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, obesity, and diabetes.
  • Increase the risk of heart failure.
  • Cause irregular heartbeats.
  • Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents.

What are the causes of Sleep Apnea?

The causes of Sleep Apnea is thought to be a disease where the back of the throat is smaller than normal, which can then cause it to collapse easily whilst sleeping. The upper airway muscles, which hold the throat open, do not work properly in people with Sleep Apnea. The brain sends messages when to breathe and sometimes the breathing pattern during sleep can be abnormal in Sleep Apnea sufferers.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA):

  • Obesity: Excess fat around the neck can obstruct airways.
  • Narrow Airway: Some people naturally have narrower airways.
  • Enlarged Tonsils or Adenoids: Especially in children, these can block airflow.
  • Genetics: Certain inherited traits can increase the risk.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA):

  • Central Nervous System Problems: Stroke, brain tumor, or injury affecting the brainstem.
  • Heart Disorders: Congestive heart failure can disrupt breathing control.
  • Use of Opioids or Sedatives: Can affect respiratory drive.

Other Contributing Factors:

  • Age: Older adults are at higher risk.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to have sleep apnea.
  • Smoking: Can lead to increased inflammation and fluid retention in the airway.
  • Alcohol or Sedative Use: Relaxes throat muscles, leading to airway collapse.
  • Family History: A family history of sleep apnea increases risk.
  • Nasal Congestion: Obstructs airflow, contributing to breathing difficulties during sleep.

Studies indicate that not all people with Sleep Apnea are diagnosed with all or the same causes listed above. Sleep Apnea medical professionals and researchers are continuing to discover ways to personalise treatments to address to the underlying cause or causes. The treatment of Sleep Apnea is unique to each patient depending on the underlying causes.

causes of Sleep apnea

How do you know if you have OSA?

Sleep Apnea sufferers often complain of snoring and being tired during the day. Often the symptoms are not obvious. Subtle forms of Sleep Apnea are fairly common and sufferers who have certain medical conditions can be at a higher risk. Sleep Apnea patients at high risk include those who are elderly, women after menopause, or who are obese. Patients who suffer from diabetes, sickle cell disease, and those with heart or lung disease (such as asthma, emphysema or COPD) may be at special risk. If you think you might have sleep apnea, you should talk to your closest sleep clinic. A simple sleep study can be done to make a diagnosis.

Will my Sleep Apnea ever go away?

Sleep Apnea is considered a lifelong condition, although there have been reported cases in which OSA has improved or gone away permanently. Obesity is a major contributor to Sleep Apnea. Weight loss has been shown to lead to improvement in Sleep Apnea. Another situation in which apnea can improve or go away is in people with large tonsils that are blocking airflow in the throat. Removal of tonsils has been shown to improve Sleep Apnea. Generally, removal of tonsils is not sufficient to treat OSA in adults.

Are there other alternative therapies for Sleep Apnea?

There are other alternative treatments for Sleep Apnea beyond CPAP machines and CPAP masks that can be helpful for some patients.


Can be performed on the upper airway. Results vary from person to person. Some patients show elimination of Sleep Apnea after upper airway surgery, whereas other patients have experienced no major change in their condition. One of the types of surgery for sleep apnea is the uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) which involves surgery on the soft palate at the rear of the throat. Not every Sleep Apnea sufferer will benefit from this surgery.

Oral appliances:

That are made by dentists and can be useful. The device is designed to pull the jaw forward and help to prevent collapse at the back of the throat. Some Sleep Apnea sufferers prefer to opt for the oral appliances. Most studies reveal that using a CPAP machine and CPAP mask is more effective at controlling Sleep Apnea.

Hypoglossal nerve stimulation (HGNS):

Uses a pacemaker-like stimulator device that a surgeon places in the neck and use electrical pulse to activate the muscles in the tongue. This results in keeping the airway open. HGNS recently received approval by the FDA and is proving to be a popular alternative.

alternative therapies for Sleep Apnea

There are alternatives, devices that can be purchased at the pharmacy such as special pillows and nasal strips. Unfortunately, most of these treatments have not been proven to be effective in resolving Sleep Apnea.

It has been suggested and not proven that weight loss can help improve or eliminate sleep apnea symptoms if you are overweight or obese. Overweight and obese people often have thick necks with extra tissue in the throat that may block the airway.

What is expected in the future for sleep apnea sufferers?

Improvements are ongoing, and further improvements are expected both on the diagnosis, treatment and causes of Sleep Apnea. New tests are likely to assist in improvement in determining the underlying causes of Sleep Apnea. Nasal CPAP will continue to be the main treatment for Sleep Apnea for the foreseeable future but ongoing to development of new CPAP devices continues.