Sleep apnea: what they are and how they must be faced

Sleep apnea: what they are and how they must be faced

Suffering from sleep apnea can put the quality of sleep and life at risk. Here's what they are and how to deal with them

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Sleep apnea is a fairly common disorder, which can have serious effects on the quality of life of those suffering from it. As a rule, they occur during sleep and can be counteracted even by changing one's lifestyle, where surgery is not necessary. Millions of Italians suffer from it. Let's find out what it is and how to deal with them.


Sleep apnea syndrome is manifested by dysfunction or respiratory alteration during sleep, which causes excessive daytime sleepiness. The most common type is obstructive apnea, due to airway obstruction, generally associated with a reduction in oxygen saturation in the blood. It can often also arise due to an abnormal structure of the jaw or respiratory system. Less common, central sleep apnea consists of an absence of respiratory activity due to a transient loss of the nervous stimulus directed towards the respiratory muscles during the period of sleep. It happens, therefore, that for a few brief moments the organism forgets to breathe. The causes are mostly associated with neurological or neuromuscular problems.


When you suffer from sleep apnea, breathing stops one or more times during sleep, or slows down too much. The breaks can last from a few seconds to a few minutes, until the breathing resumes normally, in some cases with a snoring sound. The causes include:

  • excessive relaxation of the throat or tongue muscles
  • swelling of the tongue or tonsils
  • overweight
  • shape of the head and neck, which can cause narrowing of the airways
  • the aging process, which limits the ability of nerve impulses to keep the neck muscles rigid during sleep


Changing your lifestyle can be an effective remedy to combat sleep apnea. Stopping smoking, avoiding sleeping pills or certain medications, limiting alcohol consumption and losing weight are solutions that can positively affect sleep quality. If a change in one's habits is not sufficient to solve the problem, one of the most widespread and effective treatments is positive pressure mechanical ventilation, the so-called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). It is a mask from which air comes out with continuous pressure, thus avoiding the collapse of the upper airways, responsible for the apneas. The device must be calibrated by the specialist, based on the needs of those suffering from this syndrome, and periodic polysomnography monitoring is required to make sure that it really solves breathing pauses.

Category: Health
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