Writer: Sonika Tatipalli
Summary of Significance
Almost 25 million people in the United States suffer from sleep apnea, and around 40,000 die each year (“Yes, You Can Die from Sleep Apnea. Carrie Fisher Did. – Sleep Apnea”). Sleep apnea is among the numerous sleep disorders that torture people every day. It is a very serious condition that can be very harmful to the sufferer. In this threatening sleep disorder, a person’s respiratory flow suddenly stops while they lay down or are asleep.
There are three different types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. In this type, the muscles in the throat relax which causes the airways to narrow, allowing less air to come through (“Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Causes”). As this continues, the airways completely block off. As shown in Figure 1, there are normally free, open airways for people to breathe. However, when someone with sleep apnea is asleep, their tongue and palate slowly sink, causing that airway to narrow and be blocked. Thus, they cannot breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea can range from mild to severe. It becomes classified as severe if the person stops breathing over 30 times in a single hour (“The Dangers of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea”).
Despite the fact that there are fewer cases of central sleep apnea, it is still a threatening disorder that may seriously injure people. In someone with central sleep apnea, his or her brain cannot properly send signals to the breathing muscles (“Central Sleep Apnea”). With all functions, the brain is what controls the rest of the body, so as it sends signals to different parts, those parts activate and complete their task. In central sleep apnea, however, the malfunction in the brain causes no information to be sent to the muscles that are supposed to breathe. This results in the person not being able to control their own breathing.
The third type of sleep apnea, complex sleep apnea syndrome, is similar to a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is called treatment-emergent because it may begin during a treatment. While a person is being treated for obstructive sleep apnea, the brain may stop sending signals for breathing, which will lead to central sleep apnea (“What Causes Complex Sleep Apnea?”). In other words, complex sleep apnea syndrome is when central sleep apnea occurs during the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. All three of these types pose a great danger to the individual suffering from the condition.
Although there is no direct cause of sleep apnea, there are many factors that can greatly increase the risk of this condition. Many of these are similar between obstructive and central sleep apnea. Such risk factors include being older, being a male, having other medical conditions (such as heart failure or stroke), and having a family history of sleep apnea. However, there are some significant risk factors that are specific to obstructive sleep apnea. For example, being obese increases the chance of obstructive sleep apnea because the excess fat can block the airway. In fact, most people with sleep apnea are obese. Some other factors similar to this include having a larger neck, using tranquilizers, and having nasal congestion (“Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Causes”). One specific risk factor that increases the chances of central sleep apnea is using drugs such as opioids, which damage the brain.
There are various symptoms that may occur for those with sleep apnea. Some of these include loud snoring, irritability, and insomnia (difficulty staying asleep) (“Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Causes”). As these symptoms progress, they will ultimately lead to multiple times of no breathing in the middle of the night.
One major problem is that these symptoms are not always easy to detect. For example, when a person wakes up due to shortness of breath, they usually are not able to pinpoint the reason why. Unless this constantly occurs, they will not consult their doctor about it either. Also, a person may not understand that they stopped breathing while they are asleep. The only way to tell is if it is reported by someone else. Because of these reasons, sleep apnea is a difficult condition to diagnose. In fact, studies show that up to 90% of individuals with sleep apnea do not even know that they have it (“Obstructive Sleep Apnea”). Without being treated quickly, not only will these various symptoms occur constantly, but the condition could also worsen and lead to other problems.
If not treated, sleep apnea would progress and more long term conditions may develop in the individual. For example, some people have trouble sleeping at night with this condition, so they feel drowsy even in the morning. An individual’s blood pressure may increase and heart problems may start to develop because of low levels of oxygen in the blood. Another problem is that they could disturb others’ sleep by snoring too loud, waking up many times, etc. Additionally, people with sleep apnea are more prone to complications that may happen during surgeries. This is due to the fact that they will have breathing problems when laying down with anesthesia. Finally, if a person stops breathing for a prolonged amount of time, they may even die.
As shown by the innumerable, various complications and symptoms that a person with sleep apnea must suffer with, it is evident that a solution must be developed to help these individuals.
The author of this article effectively explained about sleep apnea and its types, its risk factors, and its symptoms. The text was formatted correctly, the references were cited properly, and the graphics were helpful and supportive to the text. She may want to include a few more statistics to make a stronger impact on the urgent need for the sleep apnea solution. For example, she could include the death rate for those with sleep apnea. Ultimately, the author was very descriptive and clear throughout the article and she conveyed this important information effectively.
“Obstructive Sleep Apnea.” Department of Neurology, www.columbianeurology.org/neurology/staywell/document.php?id=42067#:%7E:text=It’s%20also%20more%20common%20in,help%20you%20get%20a%20diagnosis.
“Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Causes.” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sleep-apnea/symptoms-causes/syc-20377631.
“The Dangers of Uncontrolled Sleep Apnea.” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-dangers-of-uncontrolled-sleep-apnea
“What Causes Complex Sleep Apnea?” Medscape, 12 Nov. 2019, www.medscape.com/answers/304967-114283/what-causes-complex-sleep-apnea.
“Yes, You Can Die from Sleep Apnea. Carrie Fisher Did. – Sleep Apnea.” Sleepapnea.Org, www.sleepapnea.org/carrie-fisher-yes-you-can-die-from-sleep-apnea.