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posted Dec 5, 2014, 1:30 AM by   [ updated Dec 2, 2015, 3:23 PM by Upali Salpadoru ]
Apnea- A sleep disorder.

“R.rrrrr….r   Grrrr……rm. “ “My husband sleeps like a log, rather a log cutting machine.”
No! You are wrong. He neither sleeps nor allows the others to sleep. Men seem to snore more than women. Children too snore at times. It may even be hereditary. It is not a common illness to be ignored.

When a person is sleeping a greater part of the brain would be resting. Breathing that is inhaling and exhaling of air is performed involuntarily. When the rib cage expands and the diaphragm goes down, air is drawn into the lungs through the nostrils or the mouth. When the pressure on the lungs increases air is pushed out; exhaling. But what causes the sound?

A sound can only be produced by a vibration; a fairly fast to and fro movement; faster than 20 times in a second. When the wind blows, leaves rustle. When steam passes through the narrow constriction of the kettle a whistle is heard. Similarly when the air in or out through the nose or the throat there can be a sound.  Under normal circumstances this is hardly audible. Many people can produce musical notes by passing air through an opening between tight lips. The pitch, to a great extent controlled by the diameter of the opening. Similarly a constriction in the nasal passage or throat (larynx) can transform inhaling and exhaling human beings into whistles…

If you move your tongue up from the teeth along the roof of your mouth the tongue will pass from the hard palate to the soft palate region.  Open your mouth in front of a mirror; you will see a small flap hanging from the soft palate. During sleep, this part, which is called ‘uvula, becomes excessively flexible and vibrates like a leaf in the wind. This is the cause of the snoring sound in most cases. The nature of the uvula and the size of the opening available for the air tom pass will determine the pitch of the sound while the speed of breath will determine the intensity or loudness.

Uvula may not be the only culprit causing this. The adenoids and the tonsils too can assist the choir, especially in the case of children. The fat people snore more than others. This is due to the fat deposits accumulating around the neck. These can temporarily block the air way during sleep. Another cause could be the inflammation of the tissues in the nostrils due to a viral attack such as cold or due to an allergic condition. Snoring is common among the middle aged due to the loss of muscle strength in the throat, which makes it easier for tissues to hang out into the air passage. There can even be out growths called ‘nasal polyps’. When the air passage is narrowed, by any of these causes there has to be an extra effort to push the air. This may set the various tissues to vibrate, though not in perfect harmony.

Alcohol consumption depresses the part of the brain that regulates breathing. This can relax the tongue and throat muscles which could hinder the air flow. Smoking and use of sedatives also can aggravate this situation.

Although many people ignore snoring, it is a harmful condition which requires immediate attention. This may even be a symptom of a very serious disorder called ‘sleep apnea’. Under this condition, a person may even cease to breathe. Though he may resume breathing on waking up, it will disturb his sleep. Air exchange would have been reduced.  The blood may not receive sufficient Oxygen to carry out the metabolic functions and health will deteriorate. Due to lack of proper sleep, one could be drowsy during the day. Driving and the use of heavy machinery could be disastrous for such a person.

As for any other health problem, preliminary ‘sleep apnea’ also has some home remedies.

    1. Maintain regular hours of sleep.

    2. Sleep on a side and not on your back. In this position the ‘ulva’ cannot block the air passage…

    3. Raise the head of your bead by keeping a few bricks. Raising your position by a pillow may not work.

    4. Practice blowing musical instruments. This will strengthen the muscles along the air passage and     not allow them to hang loosely.

    5. Avoid alcohol, smoke and sedatives. Sleeping tablets will put you to a false sleep and keep your partner awake.

    6. If the problem is in the nasal passage decongestants may be used; corticosteroid sprays but not for long periods.(Those who have swollen prostate glands should shun this)

If the symptoms become severe feeling sleepy during work, getting up with gasps and chokes from sleep the patient must consult a physician. In some cases surgery brings about relief but it may be wiser to check with the insurance companies as they may not recognize ‘apnea’ as an illness.