What Causes Sleep Apnea in Adults?

What Causes Sleep Apnea in Adults?

Mar 23, 2023

Sleep apnea is a potentially severe sleep-related disorder in which breathing stops briefly and begins during sleep. It can happen several times an hour throughout the night.

While it might not seem serious, breathing interruption results in less oxygen in the blood, leading to brain, metabolism, and cardiovascular problems, as well as other serious health issues. It can also cause sleep deprivation, leading to poor concentration and sleepiness during the day, increasing your risk of work and car-related accidents.

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). OSA happens when there’s a complete or partial obstruction in the airway, causing your breathing to stop briefly.

The brain wakes the body to open the airway to breathe properly. CSA happens when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing. It can cause you to breathe lightly or stop breathing briefly. While rare, someone can have both OSA and CSA, often known as complex sleep apnea.

Symptoms of OSA and CSA

The signs of obstructive and central sleep apnea often overlap. These can include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (hypersomnia)
  • Abrupt awakening when choking or gasping for air
  • Observed episodes of breathing stops during sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Decreased libido
  • Difficulty concentrating during the day
  • Difficulty staying asleep (insomnia)
  • Mood changes like Irritability and depression
  • Awakening with sore throat or dry mouth

Consult your dentist if you, your partner, or your child have these symptoms. Even if these symptoms don’t always indicate sleep apnea, they may help identify another condition in which medication is still necessary.

Causes of Sleep Apnea in Adults

Generally, sleep apnea is more common in adults than children. In obstructive sleep apnea, airway obstruction results from factors that affect your airway during sleep. For instance, the muscles at the back of your throat can relax too much during sleep, blocking the airway partially and wholly.

The key factors behind OSA are obesity and weight. Research shows that more than 50% of people with OSA are overweight with a body mass index of 25- 30 or above. A 10% weight gain can increase your risk of OSA by six times (the effects go down after age 60).

Common risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Obesity or excess weight: Being obese or overweight can cause more fat deposits around the upper airway, affecting your breathing during sleep. Medical conditions associated with obesity, like polycystic ovary and hypothyroidism, can cause OSA.
  • Old age: The risk of OSA increases with age. Fortunately, the effects leveled off in the 60s and 70s.
  • Narrowed airway: People with narrow airways have a higher risk of OSA. It can also result from having enlarged tonsils or adenoids.
  • Health conditions: People with high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, and chronic nasal congestion are likely to get OSA.
  • Smoking and alcohol consumption: Smoking and taking alcohol, especially before bed, increases your risk of OSA.
  • Family history: If you have family members with OSA, then you’re more likely to have it as well.

In cases of central sleep apnea, it’s challenging to establish the key cause. However, many key causes include certain medications, health conditions, and environments. These can include:

  • Chronic health conditions: Health conditions like kidney failure, heart failure, or stroke can cause a distinctive breathing pattern causing CSA.
  • High altitude: Central sleep apnea can happen when you’re very high, often above 15,000 feet. It should go away when you return to lower altitudes.
  • Certain drugs and medicines: Medications like fentanyl or hydrocodone can cause central sleep apnea. Speak with a doctor if you have a problem abusing drugs or medications.

Treating Sleep Apnea

Untreated sleep apnea can lead to severe and life-threatening complications. Therefore, you must seek treatment immediately if you notice any symptoms. Common treatments for sleep apnea include:

  • Home remedies and lifestyle changes: These can include losing weight, exercising, eating healthier, sleeping on the side, and avoiding drugs, alcohol, and tobacco.
  • Therapies: These can include CPAP machines, bi-level machines, night guards, and tongue-retaining devices.
  • Surgery
  • Medications

Are You Looking for Sleep Apnea Treatment in Marshfield, MA?

Do you have any sleep apnea symptoms, or do you need more information about sleep apnea causes? Contact Marshfield Dental Group to begin your treatment today.

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