Sleep apnea is characterized by abnormal pauses in the respiratory system during sleep as the result of a physical obstruction of the airway or, in rare cases, a brain malfunction. The word “apnea” actually means a pause in breathing.
These pauses can last from a few seconds up to several minutes, and will occur from 5 – 30 times per hour. Although the condition varies in severity from mild to moderate, everyone who suffers with the condition for long enough will develop negative symptoms in every system of the body.
While we all want to avoid developing this condition, it is, unfortunately, not as easy as it might appear to halt its development in those at high risk. Of course, learning all that we can about sleep apnea causes and taking appropriate the steps to stop it from forming is a very prudent course of action.
What Does Sleep Apnea Do?
The condition causes a severe lack of deep sleep (or sleep deprivation). Not achieving the deepest level of sleep (stage 4) each night cripples our endocrine system because optimal hormonal release cannot be achieved. The pineal gland will not produce enough melatonin and the pituitary will not release enough HGH (human growth hormone). This type of hidden insomnia is sometimes not even noticed by the person with the condition.
Oxygen levels can be lowered by as much as 3-4 percent and low blood oxygen levels affect ever system in our entire body. This is another reason why sleep apnea is so destructive: it basically dams up our access to the river of life (our oxygen supply). We can live days without food and water, but only minutes without oxygen.
What are the Sleep Apnea Causes?
The truth is that this condition has many risk factors and elements which come into play. There is not one magical solution that individual can employ in order to avoid developing it. But, the more that we know about the various sleep apnea causes, the better off we all are.
- Smoking – smoking is one of the overlooked sleep apnea causes. Smokers are more likely to develop this condition due to inflammation and increased fluid accumulation in the upper airway, a smoker’s risks of developing the condition are 3 times as great as a non-smoker, yet another reason to quit smoking right away. Talk to your doctor, if you need help in quitting.
- Excess Weight – People that are overweight are hit with a double whammy. They generally do not have good muscle tone and the excess fat under their chins is also a contributing factor to airway closure or one of the sleep apnea causes. If you’re out of shape and overweight, starting an exercise program is important to lowering risk factors.
- Age – Being over 65 is another one of the sleep apnea causes because the elderly typically lose muscle tone, and loss of muscle tone in the throat causes apnea. But whatever your age you can take significant steps to lower your risk.
- Sleep Position – People that sleep on their backs are more prone to developing an apnea, so it’s suggested that people switch to sleeping on their sides. Elevating the top half of the body is also a worthy solution.
How to Tell If You Have the Condition
There is only one way to know if you indeed have sleep apnea, and that is by undergoing a Polysomnogram. This is basically an overnight sleep study and detailed observation. There is really no other fool proof test to prove an apnea exists, however recording yourself while you sleep and listening for snoring and gasping is a good preliminary test that will offer clues.
So, if you or someone you know is known to participate in any of these typical sleep apnea causes, has several of these risk factors in combination, or are suffering from unexplainable daytime sleepiness and fatigue, it is a good idea to see a medical professional and participate in an overnight sleep study. However, knowing the risk factors and limiting them is a wonderful way to lower your chances of developing the condition from sleep apnea causes and may help in the healing process if it has developed as well.