Sleep Apnea Symptoms, Causes and Risk Factors

Sleep apnea, is a problem certain people have, when they sleep, they may stop breathing for short periods. These periods can last for 10 seconds or more. With approx 3-4 breaths are missed. As a result of this, those affected are often tired during the day. Mainly because such people also tend to have microsleep ( temporary episode of sleep or drowsiness which may last for a fraction of a second or up to 30 seconds where an individual fails to respond to some arbitrary sensory input and becomes unconscious) , they should not drive vehicles. Sleep apnea is a treatable disease.

The involuntary pause in breathing can result either from a blocked airway or a signaling problem in the brain. Most people with the condition have the first kind, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Sleep apnea is due to a signaling problem is known as central sleep apnea (CSA).

The prevalence of OSA was found to be 13.7% (by using the STOP- Bang questionnaire). It was found that the prevalence of OSA was highest in  the age group of 50–59 (21.7%) and  least in the  age group of 18–29  (12.0%). Gender-wise distribution of OSA based  on the scoring was seen to be more, among males it was of 14.8% and females showed a prevalence of 12.9%.

Signs/ Symptoms:

  •     Excessive day time sleepiness
  •     Loud snoring
  •     Observed episodes of breathing cessation during sleep
  •     Abrupt awakenings accompanied by gasping or choking
  •     Awakening with a dry mouth or sore throat
  •     Morning headache
  •     Difficulty concentrating during the day

Additional symptoms include:

  • Restless sleep or insomnia
  • Waking up several times a night to urinate
  • Irritability
  • Decreased libido and erectile dysfunction
  • Heartburn

Risk Factors:

  • Obesity: approximately two-thirds of people with OSA are overweight or obese
  • Family history of OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) or snoring
  • Male gender
  • Large neck circumference (more than 17 inches in men, more than 15 inches in women)
  • Large tonsils
  • Alcohol consumption at bedtime
  • Post-menopausal (for women)
  • Smoking
  • Hypothyroidism (low levels of thyroid hormone)
  • Acromegaly (high levels of growth hormone)


  • High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Diabetes
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • Nocturnal angina
  • Hypothyroidism


  • Muscular changes: While sleeping, the muscles that keep the airway open relax, along with the tongue, causing the airway to narrow. Normally, this relaxation does not prevent the flow of air in and out of the lungs, but in sleep apnea, it can.
  • Physical obstructions: There are additional thickened tissues or excessive fat stored around the airway that can restrict the airflow, and any air that squeezes past can cause the loud snoring typically associated with OSA.
  • Brain function: In central sleep apnea (CSA), the neurological controls for breathing are faulty, causing the control and rhythm of breathing to malfunction. CSA is usually associated with an underlying medical condition, such as a stroke or heart failure, recent ascent to high altitude, or the use of certain pain relief medication.

Lifestyle Changes needed:

Lifestyle changes are needed to normalize the breathing pattern, and they are critical first steps in treatment.

They include:

  • Alcohol cessation
  • Smoking cessation
  • Weight loss
  • Side sleeping

Yogic Management for Sleep Apnea:

Standing Asanas:

  • Suryanamaskars
  • Tadasana
  • Warrior Pose-I, II
  • Reverse Warrior
  • Utkatasana

Supine Asanas:

  • Uttanasana
  • Supta Badhakonasana
  • Naukasana
  • Meru Vakrasana
  • Viparitkarani
  • Shavasana

Prone Asanas:

  • Shalbhasana
  • Bhujangasana/ SalambhaBhujangasana
  • Dhanurasana

Seated Asanas:

  • Shashankasana
  • Balasana
  • Pashchimotanasana


  • Nadi Shudhi Pranayama
  • Bhrahmari
  • Kapalbhati

Relaxation techniques like yoganidra, any type of meditation helps in calming the mind, and also helps in reducing stress, which can further help a person to sleep better at nights.  Any chronic condition does not get cured overnight. Give sometime to yourself and get your schedule strict and disciplined, you will definitely see the progress in your health, physically and mentally.


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