Sleep apnea causes are really difficult to define and every case will be different but with some similar characteristics. Your doctor will probably tell you its your weight or your age without really knowing what the cause is. Sometimes what seems to be the obvious cause is not necessarily the real cause.
Excess weight can be a sleep apnea cause
Although slim individuals can develop sleep apnea, this condition is most common among people with a large neck circumference, over 17 inches for men and over 16 inches for women. Over half of those with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight or obese, defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 25-29.9 or 30.0 and above.
The connection between excess weight and sleep apnea also works the other way, sleep apnea increases your risk of becoming overweight or obese. Sleep apnea leads to sleep deprivation, which often prompts people to eat more. This is likely due to the relationship between hunger and satiety hormones (leptin and ghrelin) and sleep deprivation, although researchers are not yet certain about the nature of this relationship.
To make matters worse, people with sleep apnea often have high blood pressure, high fasting glucose, and high cholesterol. When hunger and satiety hormones are not operating effectively, it is much easier to overeat and gain even more weight. This can aggravate the effects of sleep apnea, worsening hormonal disturbance and eating habits and prompting further weight gain.
Breathing through the mouth
Breathing through the mouth is a common trait of snorers and sleep apnea sufferers. By breathing through the mouth too much air is sucked in at any one time.
When breathing through the upper chest it uses muscles of the upper chest rather than the diaphragm. Resting breathing should take place through the diaphragm and breathing when exercising usually takes place through the upper chest.
Breathing too fast results in taking in too much air into the lungs, almost like hyperventilating. Sixteen breaths a minute when awake is normal.
By breathing too much you are over breathing, taking move air into the lungs than is actually needed.
Breathing is not calm and steady but rather irregular, with different size breaths with a lot of sighing and throat clearing.
20, slim and no health issues
I developed sleep apnea when I was in my early 20's, I was slim and healthy. So why did I get it?
I had a fear of the dark from an early age so could only sleep with a light on which probably led to me not sleeping as well as I should, if the room had been in darkness. In turn this affected my breathing, creating heavy breathing as my head was always buried under the blankets to avoid the darkness. This is the only reason I can think of that would have started my sleep apnea.
You can read the story of my sleep apnea journey, and how I have coped with this debilitating condition.
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