Causes of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea occurs when your airway closes and does not allow air to flow through it. Everyone's muscles in their throat naturally relax when they are sleeping. In people that have sleep apnea though, the throat is restricted enough that any obstruction causes them to choke or sputter and deprive their body of necessary oxygen. In these cases, obstructive sleep apnea is a problem that must be treated right away to prevent serious consequences from occurring.
Reasons for Sleep Apnea
There are many reasons that sleep apnea can occur. They will not necessarily occur in everyone that falls into one or more of the below categories, but the risks are greatly increased.
Relaxed Muscles - Some people have throat muscles that relax more than they should. This causes the airway to become greatly narrowed, causing problems for them while they are sleeping. Some people will be unable to sleep because the loss of oxygen forces them to wake up throughout the night as the body naturally wakes itself when it is deprived of oxygen.
Oversized Tonsils - Some people have larger tonsils than their body can handle. When their muscles relax at night, the tonsils cause an obstruction in the airway making it difficult for them to breathe. This can occur from oversized adenoids as well.
Overweight - People that are very overweight could have extra tissue near the windpipe. This makes it more difficult for air to get through the windpipe and fails to provide the body with the proper amount of air. As the muscles relax, the windpipe has a harder time staying open. In most cases, people with a neck that measures more than 17 inches is at risk, but anyone with excess body fat could suffer from this sleep disorder.
Age - As you age, everything begins to slow down, even your brain. If your brain does not send the right signals to the throat and airways to remain stiff, they could collapse too much, causing it to be difficult to breathe. This does not occur to everyone, but it is a risk.
Weak Muscles - Anyone that has weak muscles, whether permanent or temporary due to medication or an illness, is at risk for sleep apnea. When the muscles become weak, they are unable to stay stiff while sleeping. This collapse is what causes difficulty breathing.
People at High Risk
There are many people that are at a higher risk than others. If you suffer from one of the following disorders or diseases it does not mean that you do or will suffer from sleep apnea, but your likelihood is much higher:
In addition, certain lifestyle habits can contribute to your risk of developing some form sleep apnea. If you smoke, consume large amounts of alcohol or take drugs, you are at risk. In addition, anyone that is overweight could suffer not only from sleep apnea, but also diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.