One of the more common sleep disorders, obstructive sleep apnoea is a serious condition that results in the closure of your airways while you are asleep. When your airways collapse, your brain tries to wake you up to get oxygen. For some people, this can happen hundreds of times in a night. It’s so common that as many as one in four men over the age of 30 suffer from it. Let’s evaluate what the causes of sleep apnoea syndrome are.
What’s Going On When You Have Sleep Apnoea?
The word ‘apnoea’ translates as ‘stopping breathing’ and is used to describe the episode that occurs when the lungs do not receive enough oxygen. When this happens, the levels of oxygen in your blood drop and you are woken up for long enough to take a breath before falling asleep again.
The results of this sequence, which can happen up to 30 times an hour, mean you do not get a good night’s sleep and will wake up the next day feeling lethargic and groggy. This can affect concentration, as well as interpersonal relationships with your bed partner.
How Do You Know If You Have Sleep Apnoea?
Lots of people are not even aware of the disturbances that interfere with a good night’s sleep. In fact, many times it is actually a patient’s bed partner who raises the alarm.
However, sometimes there are other signs to be seen, heard or experienced:
- Teeth grinding and clenching of the jaw
- Headaches especially in the morning
- Tiredness and fatigue during the day
- Concentration and memory problems
- Feeling emotional/irritable
- Decreased libido
What Are The Causes Of Sleep Apnoea Syndrome?
Sleep apnoea shares some of its causes with those of other sleep disorders. There are a number of factors that can contribute to a person having sleep apnoea. Some potential causes of sleep apnoea syndrome include:
- Inflammation of your tonsils or adenoids, which can cause pressure in the neck and increase its circumference
- Structural issues with your head, nose or jaw, such as undershot jaw
- Being overweight or obese, which adds bulk to your neck, weighing your airways down
- Neck circumference: a wider neck puts you at greater risk
- Sleeping flat on your back, as this puts your neck muscles under the pressure of gravity
- Smoking makes you more susceptible than people who have never smoked
- Using sedative and sleeping tablets, which can cause your neck muscles to relax and affect the rate at which the brain is able to register the lack of oxygen
- Genetics and a family history of the disorder make you more prone to it
- Nasal congestion: if you have seasonal allergies or a cold and your nose is blocked
- Alcohol consumption and caffeine can also play a role, particularly if you are drinking it in the hours before bed. Alcohol relaxes the muscles of the throat and delays the brain’s response to the lack of oxygen in the body.
- Problems with the thyroid, such as low production of hormones or the presence of a goitre.
If you are a male, overweight and over the age of 60, your risk factors for causes of sleep apnoea syndrome are elevated. In fact, men are two to three times more likely to suffer from the condition than women. Women’s risk factors go up if they are overweight and after menopause.
It is also common for patients to have a number of risk factors that predispose them to the disorder as opposed to the cause just being due to one factor.
This is not to say that other groups of people are not at risk; it is possible for children to have sleep disorders too.
Certain medications and medical conditions can contribute to the onset of sleep apnoea. Some of the conditions that elevate an individual’s risk include
- Parkinson’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Congenital heart disease
- Congestive heart failure
- Type 2 diabetes
Other disorders such as hormonal disorders, polycystic ovary syndrome, chronic lung disease and previous history of stroke can also increase your chances of developing sleep apnoea.
What Are The Risks?
The complications can be serious and include
Daytime Tiredness, Memory And Concentration Problems
We all need a minimum of seven to nine hours of quality sleep every night, in order to begin each day refreshed and strong. When your sleep is interrupted, daytime fatigue and problems with memory and concentration are common. If you fall asleep at the wheel of your vehicle or are working heavy machinery at work, youtube the risk of serious injury.
You may also experience problems with emotional regulation and may feel irritated and emotional.
Type 2 Diabetes
Sleep apnoea can increase your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.
Heart Problems And High Blood Pressure
When your body does not receive enough oxygen it can negatively affect your cardiovascular health. The condition can also increase your chances of heart attack, abnormal heartbeat and stroke.
Problems With Your Liver
It is common to have abnormal liver function test results and scarring on the liver.
Patients who have the condition are at elevated risk for metabolic syndrome, a cluster of disorders that include high blood pressure, high glucose levels, high cholesterol and a wider waist circumference.
Damage To Your Teeth
Patients who clench their jaws and grind their teeth while sleeping run the risk of doing unnecessary damage to the teeth. It can also cause complications with the jaw joint, leading to discomfort and limiting the mobility of the joint.
Sleep disorders need to be addressed as soon as possible, to avoid your chance of complications developing. Lots of important metabolic processes occur during sleep.
For a personalised investigation into the causes of sleep apnoea syndrome please contact us for a consultation: