Yes, you read that correctly! Excessive snoring, gasping for air during sleep, and waking up with a dry mouth are severe signs. With no intention of scaring my readers, I am here to create awareness about a common yet life-threatening condition. Sleep apnea, obstructive sleep disorders, etc., can become very serious if left untreated. It can even take one’s life, like the famous Indian singer who just died.
Mostly, people fail to understand how deadly some of these diseases can be. Elders often justify snoring as an effect of physical stress. To all the elders reading our blogs: Excessive Snoring might not always be an effect of stress! It can be a reminder to visit an ENT specialist.
In the USA, at least 22 million people suffer from sleep apnea. 95% of adults aged 30-69 suffer from sleep apnea. China, the USA, Brazil, and India are the top countries with the maximum number of sleep apnea cases. In the USA, almost 90% of cases of obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed.
But why did the famous Indian singer, Bappi Lahiri, die suddenly? Celebrities and such personalities are always under constant medical guidance throughout the year. So why did sleep apnea take away his life?
What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea, or OSA, is a sleep disorder when a person’s breathing is interrupted while sleeping. While sleeping, the person stops breathing, suddenly gasps for air, and starts breathing again. In cases of extreme sleep apnea, a person may stop breathing a hundred times during sleep. It happens because the tongue and the soft palate block the airway during sleep. A situation like this can also cause many.
When and who does Sleep Apnea affect?
Sleep apnea usually affects men and women above 50 years of age. Sleep apnea is found mainly among men. However, this does not clinically prove that women are less prone to it. It can also indicate that most OSA among females is undiagnosed. Sleep apnea can also affect children and babies.
OSA is non-communicable and depends mainly upon genetics. Certain body types are more prone to Sleep Apnea. Obese people are twice more prone to Sleep Apnea as compared to others. Therefore, BMI may predict if you can be prone to OSA. Sometimes, specific body structures can also determine the type of OSA. For example, oversized neck and structural deformities can reduce the diameter of the upper airway.
As a result, there can be nasal obstruction, enlarged tonsils, small jawline, low-hanging soft palate, etc. These can also be a reason for sleep apnea.
Following are some precise reasons why a person can have OSA-
- People who have thicker necks and narrow airways.
- Alcohol, sedatives, etc., can relax the throat muscles more than required and worsen sleep apnea.
- Nasal congestion, especially anatomical allergies.
- Medical conditions like hormonal imbalance, diabetes, Chronic lung diseases, etc.
OSA: A less bothered condition among many
Now that you know how dangerous sleep apnea can be, you might wonder about the lack of awareness. Sadly, most of us have been entirely unaware of sleep apnea. It is this unawareness that took away the Indian singer’s life. Lahiri was 69 when he was admitted for deteriorating health conditions. He was released, and the conditions triggered the next day, forcing him to get admitted again. The next day he died due to OSA.
Well, OSA was not the only condition that took his life. He was obese, which might have triggered several other issues in the body. It is also astonishing that a renowned celebrity like him chose to remain unfit. Our previous blogs discussed how obesity could trigger and catalyze multiple health conditions. For example, you can get diabetes, heart issues, liver problems, etc.
As people tend to become obese, their veins and capillaries start shrinking. If the fat accumulation in the upper body part increases, it naturally affects respiratory organs. That’s the reason why obese people incline heart and lung issues.
In several countries, sleep apnea remains undiagnosed. People often come up with explanations for excessive snoring. Loud snoring, waking up in between sleep, or even gasping for air while sleeping does not affect the morning activities of people. They seldom feel tired, and even if they feel so, they complain about work pressure. It is this same old cycle that keeps on repeating, and the actual condition goes undiagnosed.
As a result, patients never bother about these conditions while sleeping. They seldom report such issues to the doctor. A minor problem like sleep apnea can take people’s lives this way!
What are the symptoms of Sleep Apnea?
Let us look at some common symptoms of sleep apnea.
- Too much snoring
- Frequent nighttime wakings
- Dry mouth or sore throat
- Night sweats
- Sudden stopping of breathing can be reported by someone who sleeps next to you
- Gasping for air during sleep
- Hypersomnia (daytime sleeping)
When to see a doctor?
Every loud snore does not indicate sleep apnea. However, if someone who sleeps next to you reports any issues, you can visit a doctor. If your doctor suspects, they can advise for sleep evaluation.
- A polysomnogram in a sleep laboratory can quickly diagnose OSA. The Polysomnogram records all activities of your body, like Brain functions, eye function, airflow, breathing patterns, oxygen level, etc., under observation. Through this test, doctors diagnose the severity of sleep apnea.
- Home sleep tests are also available for adults, which can be set up at home at a moderate cost. However, a home sleep test for sleep apnea can arrest fewer conditions.
What happens during sleep apnea?
People suffering from Sleep Apnea don’t get enough exchanged air while sleeping. It happens because the airway behind the tongue collapses and thus obstructs oxygen passage to the brain. When the brain lacks oxygen supply, the heart works harder, increasing blood pressure and putting more stress on the heart. If the person continues not breathing for a few minutes, it leads to the person’s death.
In Obstructive Sleep Disorder, the brain wakes up after a short period (a few seconds to over a minute) of not breathing to resume breathing. Even after breathing resumes, the size of the airway remains decreased, causing the surrounding tissues to vibrate. We call this vibration snoring as it produces the sound. If a person snores, it signals that he has an obstructed airway.
Other effects can be having a dry mouth, waking up frequently, tiredness, sleep, groggy all day, losing concentration, and falling asleep on wheels.
Since the person does not get enough air, the oxygen level in the blood falls, causing carbon dioxide to rise. Thus, people gasp for air and snore heavily. The increased level of carbon dioxide causes the blood to thicken over time, leading to poor circulation throughout the body. Thickening of blood leads to the formation of blood clots that can lead to strokes, heart attacks, and tissue deaths.
The case is not the same when people are awake, as the brain signals the tongue and the muscles surrounding the airway to be strong enough to prevent any blockage.
For a person with severe obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, his typical day will be unable to focus, memory loss, and tired all day. In addition, people around him will notice his hard breathing, sometimes losing control and falling to the ground. Many accidents happen because of the OSA; people don’t know why the accident has happened, and the driver may be sleeping over the wheels. The best thing to do when someone falls asleep while driving is to pull aside, park in a safe place, take a quick nap, and then start driving.
What are the different types of sleep apnea?
There are mainly three types of sleep apnea-
- Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common, affecting most adults. It occurs when there is a partial or complete blockage of the upper airway while sleeping. During this apneic episode, the respiratory muscles work harder to make passage for the air. The breathing resumes again with a loud body jerk or coughing.
Such breathing causes sleep interruptions. It can also limit oxygen flow to other vital organs of your body during sleep.
- Central Sleep apnea: The respiratory organs continue to malfunction during sleep apnea. As a result, the brain refuses to send signals to the muscles to breathe. This is related to the central nervous system of the body.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome occurs when a person has both sleep apnea. It is also called treatment-emergent central sleep apnea.
Can sleep apnea be treated?
Yes, it is possible to treat Sleep Apnea. If a patient suffers from mild Apnea, the doctor recommends lifestyle changes, including losing weight, avoiding caffeine, and quitting smoking and alcohol.
Some treatments like CPAP can cure the disease in the case of moderate to severe Apnea.
What is Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)?
CPAP is the most reliable way to treat Sleep Apnea. It is a device patients have to wear while sleeping. It delivers air pressure through a mask. The air pressure is greater than the surrounding air and is enough to keep upper airway passages open.
Other airway pressure devices.
Some patients may find using or adjusting to the CPAP air pressure difficult. In that case, other airway pressure devices that automatically adjust the pressure can help.
Other ways to help cure Sleep Apnea include wearing oral appliances that keep a patient’s mouth open. Patients can try different devices to find the one suitable for them.
Surgery is the only choice when all treatments fail to cure the disease. It is also recommended for people with problems with jaw structure. One of the procedures can be UPPP (uvulopalatopharyngoplasty) which consists of the rearrangement of tissue at the uvula, palate, and throat walls to increase the airway size and decrease tissue collapse.