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What Causes Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes your breathing to constantly stop and start while sleeping. This serious sleep disorder can cause loud snoring, morning headaches, high blood pressure, a sore throat and excessive sleepiness in the morning. It is even possible that you wake up several times in the middle of the night gasping for air when your breathing stops.

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when the muscles in the back of your throat become too relaxed. These throat muscles are supposed to support the uvula and soft palate, but your airway gets closed when they become too relaxed. The blocked airway usually only occurs for 10 to 20 seconds at a time, but it will repeatedly happen throughout the night if you have obstructive sleep apnea. Inadequate breathing while sleeping prevents your brain from getting enough blood and oxygen. It can also allow carbon dioxide to accumulate in the brain.

The brain knows you are not sleeping properly, so it will briefly wake you up to open up the airway. It is entirely possible that you never remember waking up for these short moments, but it will prevent you from getting the deep sleep needed to be fully rested in the morning.

Most people that suffer from obstructive sleep apnea will have their breathing obstructed by relaxed throat muscles approximately 10 to 30 times each hour. That means you can have impaired breathing and briefly wake up from your sleep over 200 times in one night. Since all of these breathing stoppages can occur without you noticing, it is entirely possible to think you slept well all night. If you think you have gotten plenty of sleep but still feel extremely tired every morning, then there is a very good chance that you are suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.

While this sleep disorder is caused by the relaxation of throat muscles, there are several things that can put you at a much higher risk of developing it. The biggest risk factor for developing obstructive sleep apnea is excessive weight. While it is entirely possible for thin people to get this sleep disorder, the majority of the people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight.

Genetics can also play a big role in determining if you will get the condition. Some people are born with a smaller airway in their mouth. You can also inherit large tonsils that make it hard to breathe while sleeping. Diabetes, smoking, asthma and chronic nasal congestion are some of the other primary risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea.

A good night’s sleep is very important if you want to properly function in the morning and throughout the rest of the day. If you believe that you may have obstructive sleep apnea, then it is in your best interest to schedule an appointment at Ayala ENT & Facial Plastic Surgery to get your problem fixed as soon as possible. Our office is located in McAllen. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more.