Breathing problems at night (sleep apnea)   Home
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 When a person breathes , the air containing oxygen enters through the nose and passes through the back of the throat, voice box , windpipe to reach the lungs. The lungs the oxygen in the air which we breathe in is exchanged with the carbon dioxide generated in the body. We automatically breathe through the nose at night and when we are awake, we breathe through the mouth if the nose is blocked.

During sleep, mouth breathing becomes difficult as the throat may be blocked by the tongue. The muscles of the throat are relaxed when a person sleeps, and sometimes the windpipe gets blocked and air cannot flow through to the lungs.  In deep sleep, the breathing stops for a short period of time , up to 10 seconds . Then there is a sudden attempt to breathe and the person may wake up. Since the person is sleeping and is unaware, the only symptom is sleepiness during the day.

 Breathing problems may be caused by a large tongue, narrow windpipe, certain shapes of the jaw or large neck. About 60% of the persons suffering from breathing problems are overweight, so weight reduction can help. Avoiding alcohol or sedatives before sleeping can also provide some relief. If  these methods are not useful, mechanical devices which keep the windpipe open may be prescribed by doctors.

Surgical methods like removal of  excess tissue at the back of  the throat or removal of tonsils or adenoids may be required in severe cases.

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