Two Kinds of Sleep Apnea
It’s important to remember that there are two different kinds of the disorder. We’re focused on obstructive sleep apnea most of the time since about 98% of people with the condition have obstructive sleep apnea. However, there is also central sleep apnea.
Although the conditions overlap, and many people have both, their causes are very different.
Causes of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is when a blockage in your airway causes stoppages in breathing throughout the night. Depending on the severity, these can last 10 seconds or even longer. Certain things can put you at risk for obstructive sleep apnea:
Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women because of the physiological make-up of their airways, and women tend to have tighter airway muscles.
Age: The older you get, the more likely you have sleep apnea due to the loss of muscle function in the airway.
Weight: Obesity is a risk factor for sleep apnea. Excess weight expands the soft tissues in the throat and makes collapse more likely.
Genetics: Sometimes, genetics is the cause of sleep apnea. You may naturally have a narrow throat, deviated septum, a naturally large neck, or a misaligned jaw joint. All of these could cause obstructive sleep apnea.
Allergies: Do you have allergies? They might be contributing to your sleep apnea. When exposed to something that doesn’t agree with your airway, it swells and narrows it. Use allergy medication to mitigate sleep apnea from allergies.
Sleep Medication: You might think that sleep medication is the way to go when you can’t sleep at night, but this actually makes sleep apnea worse. Sleep medication relaxes the muscles in your airway too much and can cause a blockage.
Smoking cigarettes: Besides the mucus buildup in your throat from smoking cigarettes, the chemicals from cigarettes cause inflammation in your throat and narrow your airway.
Alcohol use: Alcohol has the same effect on your airway as sleeping pills; your airway becomes too relaxed and is more likely to close. Has a loved one noticed that you snore after you drink? This is why.
Causes of Central Sleep Apnea
Central sleep apnea is when your brain doesn’t tell your lungs to breathe. This is intermittent throughout the night, similar to obstructive sleep apnea. Your brain will recognize the lack of oxygen and excess CO2 and awaken you to resume breathing. This type of sleep apnea is far less common than obstructive sleep apnea.
CPAP dependence: You might develop central sleep apnea because of a reliance on your CPAP machine that you use to treat your obstructive sleep apnea. However, this is uncommon.
Cheyne-Stokes breathing: Disorders such as congestive heart failure and stroke can cause central sleep apnea.
Drug-induced: The use of opioids can cause your brain to stop regulating your breathing.
Medical condition-induced: Medical conditions such as end-stage kidney failure can cause central sleep apnea.
Gender: Men are more likely to have central sleep apnea than women.
Age: Premature babies and people over 60 are most likely to have central sleep apnea.
High-altitude: A high altitude that you’re not used to can cause irregular breathing patterns, confusing your brain. This should go away after returning to your normal altitude.
Myth: I don’t fall into a risk category, so I don’t have sleep apnea.
A common misconception is that you don’t have sleep apnea if you don’t fall into a risk category. This is simply untrue. Many perfectly healthy people have sleep apnea, including women and children. If you are experiencing the symptoms of sleep apnea, such as daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, morning headaches, and witnessed apnea episodes, you should get tested for sleep apnea.
If you think you may have sleep apnea, call us at (303) 691-0267 or make an appointment online. We can help you get started on your journey to wellness.
Myth: Sleep apnea is rare in kids.
The truth is that sleep apnea isn’t as rare in kids as we might hope. 1 in every 10 children has sleep apnea. They grow out of it in some cases, but not all. It can result in behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and general low mood.
Find the Right Sleep Apnea Treatment
If you are concerned about the appearance of sleep apnea and want to learn more about your treatment options, please call (303) 691-0267 or make an appointment online with Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado.