Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea

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What is sleep apnea?

Perhaps most Hong Kong people have already heard of sleep apnea. As the name suggests, "sleep apnea" is a breathing disorder related to sleep. For patients who suffer from sleep apnea, their upper respiratory tracts may be obstructed due to various conditions. Sometimes the patients' breathing command could be affected by problems in the central nervous system, which would result in repeated suffocation during sleep. As this reduces the oxygen content of the blood, patients would suddenly wake up to take normal breaths and then fall back into sleep. Since the condition makes it difficult for patients to enter a deep sleep state and gain sufficient rest, their health and energy level during the day could take a toll.

Therefore, patients tend to develop headaches, tiredness, bad-temper or even become easily agitated. In worse cases, the heart would pump faster in order to compensate for the hypoxia due to suffocation, thereby increasing the workload on blood vessels and the heart. This will increase the risk of serious diseases such as hypertension and heart diseases.


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Severe snoring indicates breathing obstruction unnoticed by sleep apnea patients

Many people think it is normal to snore during sleep and are therefore unaware of the potential severity. Therefore, many patients did not know that they were suffering from sleep apnea. However, if you find yourself or your family members demonstrating the following symptoms of sleep apnea, you should start to address the problem.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea:

  • Serious nasal problems Repeated suffocation during sleeping 
  • Difficult to concentrate and slow to respond during the day 
  • Often sleepy, tired after waking up, tired during the day and dozing off frequently 
  • Declining memory 
  • Reoccurring headache in the morning 
  • Easily depressed 
  • Loss of libido 
  • Frequent urination at night

In general, sleep apnea can be classified into the following three categories:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: Most patients belong to the group of obstructive sleep apnea, in which their upper respiratory tracts are blocked by the soft tissues of the tongue or throat during sleep. Since the air cannot pass through, breathing is hindered, thereby causing suffocation and reducing the oxygen content of the blood.

  • Central sleep apnea: Since the central nervous system is unable to transmit breathing instructions normally, the patients cannot breathe and suffocate. Patients of central sleep apnea generally have no obstruction of the respiratory tracts and may not even snore during sleep. This type of sleep apnea is more commonly seen in patients who have history of stroke or cardiovascular diseases.

  • Complex sleep apnea: The patients suffer from both central and obstructive sleep apnea at the same time.


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Who are at greater risks of developing sleep apnea?

The following people have a higher chance of developing sleep apnea:
  • Male
  • Obesity
  • Large neck circumference
  • Swollen tonsils
  • Dislocation of the nasal bone, nasal polyps
  • Big tongue 
  • Receding or small mandible 
  • Alcoholism, smoking, use of tranquilizers, etc.


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Early diagnosis of sleep apnea for different severities

You will be recommended to consult a doctor and undergo a sleep test if you suspect that you may have sleep apnoea. The test will use certain instruments to record various biological data, such as electroencephalogram, electrocardiogram, eye movement, blood oxygen concentration, etc. The data will be used to analyze your sleep condition, including whether there was any suffocation as well as the number and frequency of suffocation, etc.

There are currently no drugs available to treat sleep apnea. Doctors may recommend patients with mild conditions to reduce their chance of airway obstruction by controlling weight, adopting a lateral sleeping position, or using oral appliances for sleep apnea. Patients who suffer from more serious problems of sleep apnea may need to improve their conditions by using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines or undergoing surgeries.


Last Updated : Jul 2019

Please note that all medical health articles featured on our website have been reviewed by Quality Healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for personal consultation with a qualified health professional on the reader’s medical condition.

Sleep apnea

 

 

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Please note that all medical health articles featured on our website have been reviewed by Quality Healthcare doctors. The articles are for general information only and are not medical opinions nor should the contents be used to replace the need for personal consultation with a qualified health professional on the reader’s medical condition.
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