Adult Sleep Apnea

Last Updated: May 9, 2018

Definition - What does Adult Sleep Apnea mean?

Adult sleep apnea is a medical condition that primarily affects men over forty years of age, but does less commonly affect women after experiencing menopause. The condition is characterized by brief episodes, or intervals, of total loss of breath during regular nighttime sleep due to a blocked airway passage of the throat. Adult sleep apnea occurs when soft tissue located at the back of the throat collapses disrupting normal respiration cycles. The obstructed airway induces shortage of breath in many adults that often leads to disturbed sleep patterns resulting in snoring, daytime drowsiness, mood changes, and impaired mental awareness.

WorkplaceTesting explains Adult Sleep Apnea

The effects of adult sleep apnea can have serious and, potentially, life-threatening ramifications for people who already experience health issues. There are predisposing factors such as heart conditions and obesity, for example, that make people more susceptible to develop adult sleep apnea over time. This can interfere with quality of life for both patients themselves and their spouses or partners. Polysomnography (sleep study) is a common method used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea in both adults and children, assessing and monitoring brainwave activity as it corresponds to the different stages of sleep at night. The procedure is widely effective, although its drawbacks is that it remains costly and it fails to catch the sporadic wakeful periods caused by snoring.

Lifestyle changes can help reduce or possibly eliminate mild-to-moderate adult sleep apnea such as, weight loss, alcohol and/or smoking cessation, and even shifting body positions by lying on the side rather than on one’s back. While several treatment modalities and surgeries exist, the most common alternative is called continuous positive airflow pressure (CPAP). It consists of a device with a specially fitted mask and a running tube connected to a machine that sends an inrush of air through the mouth, nostrils, and throat down to the lungs to regulate normal breathing. Receiving proper treatment for adult sleep apnea can curb adverse effects including sleep deprivation, erratic mood swings, ongoing feelings of tiredness, and certain job-related injuries in specific workplace environments like factories and construction sites.

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