Sleep apnea is a condition in which an individual’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. There are several potential causes of sleep apnea, including:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): OSA is the most common type of sleep apnea and occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, causing breathing to stop and start during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA): CSA occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe during sleep, resulting in breathing interruptions.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome (CSAS): CSAS is a combination of OSA and CSA and is sometimes referred to as treatment-emergent central sleep apnea. It occurs when an individual with OSA is treated with continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and the therapy causes the central apneas to emerge.
There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing sleep apnea, including:
- Obesity or being overweight: Excess weight can put pressure on the airway and increase the likelihood of breathing interruptions during sleep.
- Family history: Sleep apnea can run in families, suggesting a genetic component.
- Age: Sleep apnea is more common in older individuals, as muscle tone in the airway tends to decrease with age.
- Gender: Men are more likely to develop sleep apnea than women.
- Smoking: Smoking can increase the inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway, increasing the risk of sleep apnea.
- Alcohol and sedative use: These substances can relax the muscles in the airway, increasing the likelihood of breathing interruptions during sleep.
- Nasal congestion: Nasal congestion can make it more difficult to breathe through the nose, increasing the likelihood of breathing interruptions during sleep.
Overall, sleep apnea is a complex condition with a variety of potential causes and risk factors. Identifying and addressing these factors can help to reduce the likelihood of developing sleep apnea and improve overall sleep quality and health outcomes.