Causes / Symptoms
Sleep apnea is a life-threatening condition that can be detected by loud snoring and breathing during sleep. Often, those affected do not notice it for a long time. If sleep apnea is suspected, medical consultation with a specialist is urgently needed to avoid serious health consequences such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, heart attack and stroke.
Cause of sleep apnea and respiratory failure
The tongue is anatomically attached to the lower jaw. If the lower jaw is too small and has not grown forward enough (retroposition of lower jaw), then the tongue also lies too far back and blocks the respiratory passages because of lack of space. This retroposition of the lower jaw can be recognised in the profile (see image, right), the chin lies too far back and a double chin often occurs. If the person affected sleeps on his/her back, the tongue falls back and blocks the respiratory passages like a cork.
Schematic anatomic representation of the problem of sleep apnoea: Already in the upright position, the respiratory (pharyngeal) airways are narrow, but clear. In the moment the patient undergoes immense physical strain, he does not get enough air or oxygen and feels he cannot perform at sports as others.
In the reclining sleeping position, the narrow respiratory airways are closed entirely by the tongue which sinks backwards, breathing stops, the oxygen levels in the blood drop, the entire organism suffers. The life expectancy of patients with sleep apnoea is known to be shorter.
The patients are often also overweight, which aggravates the snoring. A small, receding chin and a double chin are other indications which can be easily seen in a profile view. Typical symptoms of obstructive sleep apnoea are:
- Loud snoring
- Breathing stops
- High blood pressure
- Loss of libido, impotence
- Frequently, diabetes
- Tiredness during the day
- Falling asleep when driving, nodding off
- Lack of concentration
- Severe, irregular snoring with more than 10 breathing stops per hour
- Lack of motivation, slowness and constant tiredness
- Frequent urination at night
- Restless sleep, often needing to go to the toilet, and night sweats
Life threatening consequences
The life threatening consequences of obstructive sleep apnoea are caused by lack of oxygen in the blood. Breathing is hindered by respiratory passages that are too narrow and therefore do not allow enough air to reach the lungs. During such breathing interruptions, the oxygen content in the blood declines rapidly, the heart races, blood pressure increases and stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are released.
The heart and the brain react particularly sensitively
The lack of oxygen during sleep can lead to the death of brain cells and insidious organ damage. The heart and the brain react particularly sensitively to the lack of oxygen. “A medically relevant sleep apnoea – meaning at least five to ten breaths are missed per hour – does not only make you permanently tired, lacking in motivation and exhausted, but has serious consequences for your health” emphasises Professor Sailer. It can encourage the development of metabolic problems such as the development of diabetes, insidious dementia, the risk of high blood pressure and other heart diseases or lead to impotence.
Cured forever with “rotation advancement”
By widening the respiratory passage using the operation technique “rotation advancement”, sleep apnoea can be cured permanently.