What is sleep apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a respiratory pathology that is characterized because people who suffer from it regularly snore, have breathing stops (apnea) repeatedly and drowsiness during the day. As a consequence, patients who suffer from it cannot rest well during sleeping hours.

โ€œWhat happens to people who have sleep apnea is that during the night they have a pharyngeal collapse. This collapse is periodic, especially in some phases of sleep “” When the number of apnea exceeds a certain number per hour, the syndrome known as obstructive sleep apnea occurs.โ€


Under normal conditions, when people sleep, the airway is permeable, that is, they can breathe easy. However, in some phases of sleep the tissues close and block the airway causing apnea.

In addition to this cause there are other factors that may increase the risk of apnea:

  • Have the lower jaw shorter than the upper jaw.
  • Certain forms of the palate or respiratory tract that cause the collapse of the pathway.
  • Have a big neck.
  • Possess a tongue that can be retracted to block the airway.
  • The obesity.
  • Have large tonsils or vegetations that can clog the airway.

What are your symptoms?

Snoring is the most visible manifestation that can alert the patient about the possibility of having sleep apnea. People with the disease usually start to snore very loudly after falling asleep. In addition, it is interrupted during a period of silence while the patient suffers from apnea. That period of silence is followed by a gasping breath while the patient tries to breathe again.

As a consequence of the episodes, the patient’s sleep is not restful and daytime sleepiness, chronic fatigue and even respiratory and cardiovascular disorders appear. The person with apnea usually gets up frequently to go to the bathroom, wakes up frequently with a dry mouth and the next day he feels tired, headache and complains about the high probability of falling asleep in inappropriate situations, while driving, reading or attending Work meetings.

In addition, patients with apnea may have depression, swelling of the legs or be hyperactive.

How many types of apnea exist?

The apnea and hypopnea index, that is, how many times we have every hour, throughout the night, respiratory stops of more than 10 seconds, will mark the types of sleep apnea that can be divided into:

  • Mild: when there are between 5 and 15 apneas per hour.
  • Moderate: the patient has between 15 and 30 apneas per hour.
  • Severe or severe: when it passes 30 apneas per hour.

How is your diagnosis?

The diagnosis is made by performing a sleep test that can be complete, includes neurological and respiratory variables, called polysomnography or can also be diagnosed with more abbreviated tests, such as respiratory polygraphy, which includes only respiratory variables and can be performed in the hospital or in the hospital. home.

With these tests doctors will establish the apnea and hypopnea index that will indicate the severity of the syndrome.

What is your treatment?

Therapy for sleep apnea is not curative. It is aimed at relieving symptoms. There are several types of treatments that are applied depending on the severity:

  • Conservative: the doctor will recommend weight loss, tobacco abstention, sleep hygiene, sports, good nutrition, etc.
  • Regular treatment: the most accepted and of choice is CPAP, recommended in almost all patients. This consists of a pressure generator that transmits through a nasal mask a continuous pressure to the upper airway preventing it from collapsing. According to specialists, this mask usually has a rapid effect by eliminating night snoring and daytime sleepiness. This treatment does not usually have serious side effects and if they appear they are transient and disappear after the first few weeks.

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