Breathing-related sleep disorder

If you experience sleepiness during day time or have a difficulty in falling asleep, read on to find out what could be causing the problem.

Breathing-related sleep disordersWhat are breathing-related sleep disorders?

Marked by sleep disruption, breathing-related sleep disorders result in excessive sleepiness or insomnia due to abnormal breathing during sleep.

Types of breathing-related sleep disorders

1. Obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome

The most common type of breathing-related sleep disorder, it is characterised by abnormal pauses in breathing or instances of abnormally low breathing during sleep. Most patients with this disorder are overweight and their symptoms often grow worse as the weight increases. In patients who are not overweight narrow breathing passages cause this problem.

Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea syndrome:

  • Frequent episodes of upper-airway obstruction during sleep.
  • Patients alternate between loud snores and silent periods.

2. Central sleep apnoea syndrome

It is characterised by episodes of airway blockade or stoppage of breathing during sleep because of cardiac or neurological conditions affecting airflow regulation. It mostly occurs in elderly patients.

Symptoms of central sleep apnoea syndrome:

  • Patients experience periods when the lungs temporarily stop giving oxygen to blood, but do not suffer any obstruction.
  • Patients may have mild snores during sleep.

3. Central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome

It is a condition where some brain disorders affect breathing, which leads to decreased exchange of oxygen in blood during breathing. It is a rare condition which may be present at birth, or may develop due to severe damage to the brainstem. It is common in people who are overweight.

Symptoms of central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome:

  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Inability to sleep at night
  • Respiratory arrest during sleep
  • Shallow breathing often occurs when people are awake

Diagnosing breathing-related sleep disorder

A diagnosis of breathing-related sleep disorder usually requires:

  • Thorough physical examination of the upper respiratory tract of the patient by specialist doctor
  • Followed by observation of the patient in a sleep clinic where breathing patterns are recorded by an instrument called polysomnogram
  • Interviews are also conducted with the patient and his or her partner

Treatment for breathing-related disorders

General treatment measures for breathing-related sleep disorders include:

  • Weight loss is a key to effective treatment of breathing-related sleep disorders in overweight people. Weight loss is often considered the first step in treating any disorder involving sleep apnoea. Increased exercise and reduced-calorie diets are the most important components of an effective weight loss regimen.
  • Respiratory stimulants and depression medication (in case of depression or anxiety) are usually prescribed for patients suffering from breathing-related sleep disorders.
  • Surgery is increasingly preferred by many patients. It includes procedures to   increase upper-airway size, to bypass upper airway, and surgery to aid weight loss.

Other treatments for breathing-related disorder:

  • Behaviour  modification aimed at improving sleep hygiene
  • Avoidance of ethanol and sedative medicines
  • Use of a dental appliance
  • Avoid lying flat on back during sleep
  • Successful treatment of other conditions, such as obesity, cardiac or neurological conditions in the elderly or enlarged tonsils in children

Preventing breathing-related sleep disorders

  • Effective weight management
  • Good general health
  • Treatment of related physiological conditions

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