There are people who, in addition to snoring, suffer repeated pauses in breathing that vary in length. Pauses lasting more than 10 seconds are more clinically important. These can sometimes reach 60 or 120 seconds. It is characteristic of apnea for these breaks to be interspersed between snoring.
The emergence of sleep apnea is due to a total collapse or almost total (in the case of hypopneas) collapse of the interior of the pharynx. Apneas entail a transient cessation of breathing and should not be confused with cardiorespiratory arrest, since during apneas the heart continues to beat. Upon stopping breathing, there is a transient drop in blood oxygen levels . If the apneas are very frequent, the affected person will continue to have low blood oxygen levels for a good part of the night.
One of the most significant consequences of sleep apnea is the fragmentation of sleep: whenever an apnea occurs, it ends with an arousal of a few seconds, less than the time required to remember it in the morning. The succession of these microarousals (at least as many as there apneic episodes) causes the person who suffers from them wake up feeling unrested, even though they may not recall being awakened during the night. However, in these individuals a headache is usual upon waking (which improves within a few hours), as well as a dry mouth. In addition, apnea causes daytime tiredness and sleepiness in sedentary situations. It is characteristic to have an increased risk of traffic accidents (up to seven times higher than the normal population) and work-related accidents. Changes in mood, such as irritability and depression, changes in performance, memory, or loss of the ability to concentrate have also been reported.
In cases of severe apnea, aside from the aforementioned problems, there is an increased risk of diseases such as high blood pressure (more than 40% of patients with apnea suffer from hypertension), increased risk of ischemic heart disease (chest pain, and even heart attacks) and stroke. Failure to follow treatment can lead to an increase in mortality figures over the years.
The risk of this disorder increases with age, reaching a peak between the fifth and seventh decades of life. Predisposing factors are the same as for snoring and nearly all those who suffer from sleep apnea are more or less significantly overweight. It is, on the other hand, a typically male disease, with an incidence 2.5 times higher in men than in women, although the incidence in women increases starting at menopause.
The essential test to diagnose sleep apnea is a sleep study, with polysomnography being the most accurate and providing the most information. It requires spending a night in a sleep center. While it is possible that sleeping in a sleep center may affects sleep, it still allows clinicians to examine how a patient breathes while sleeping. Measurements are taken of the respiratory flow, the effort that is made to breathe, the level of oxygenation of the blood, the functioning of the heart and the quality of sleep. Without this test, it is impossible to exclude the possibility of sleep apnea.
TREATMENT OF SLEEP APNEA