Sleep Apnea: Causes and Effects

If you are suffering from excessive drowsiness during the day, but you went to bed early and woke up late, there may be a hidden cause. Sleep apnea momentarily stops breathing, arousing a sleeper briefly many times throughout the night. While these moments of awakening may go unnoticed during the night, the resulting sleepy feeling during the day may indicate a problem.  According The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA), sleep apnea effects more 18 million Americans and many of the sufferers remain undiagnosed.

Two Types

There are two types of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common type, occurs when the soft palate in the throat prohibits air from passing normally.  Central sleep apnea is caused by the brain failing to signal the body to breathe. Central sleep apnea is rare, but serious.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs for a number reasons. Muscles in the throat that are relaxed from alcohol use, sleep inducing drugs, and smoking can cause the airway to become obstructed. People over 40, men, and those who are overweight are also more likely to suffer from sleep apnea.

Indications and Side Effects

Mayo Clinic discuses some indications that you may have experienced sleep apnea during the night including; constantly feeling tired, loud snoring, waking with the feeling of a very dry mouth,  a morning headache, insomnia, and the physical experience of interrupted breathing during the night.  If you feel like any of these indications are regularly effecting your daily life you should seek help from a doctor. Sleep apnea can also have the serious side effect of increased blood pressure. People who suffer from sleep apnea may be more at risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke.


Treatments for sleep apnea depend on the determined cause. Some suffererssleep apnea may be able to make a lifestyle change such as quitting smoking, losing weight, or refraining from alcohol several hours before sleep. According to WebMD mild sufferers of sleep apnea may be fitted with a mouthpiece to be worn at night that holds the jaw so that the airway cannot be blocked. Mayo Clinic suggests the most common and usually most effective treatment is the Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP machine. This machine keeps the airway open by placing a mask over the nose that puts a small amount of pressure on the airway, preventing it from becoming blocked.

Sleeping Better

Sleep apnea may be interfering with your healthy night of sleep. If you suspect a problem, get help. There are many ways a professional can help you sleep well and feel better!


Photo “comfortable mask at cpap central” courtesy of Rachel Tayse

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