First of all, breathing stops during sleep can occur in everyone. Especially in the phase of falling asleep, breathing is often irregular and short pauses in breathing can occur. But if breathing stops occur more frequently, a so-called sleep apnoea syndrome can be hidden behind it.
For various reasons, this can lead to longer pauses in breathing during the night. Since the brain is less well supplied with oxygen during this time and the breathing stops also disturb sleep, you will not recover the next morning. This is due to the fact that every drop of oxygen triggers a wake-up reaction.
This prevents suffocation, but although you do not actively notice the waking phases, it leads to morning exhaustion. In addition to increased tiredness during the day, breathing stops at night have a number of other negative effects. In the long term they can damage the heart, cause strokes, trigger high blood pressure and lead to a shortened life expectancy.
Constant exhaustion can also promote the occurrence of depression. The risk of traffic accidents also increases dramatically due to inattention and tiredness during the day. In this respect, any suspicion of a sleep apnoea syndrome should be clarified by a doctor and taken seriously.
Breathing stops during the night can have various causes. A typical one is that the airways are simply mechanically blocked. This is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSAS).
This can either happen when the airway itself is too narrow. For example due to enlarged tonsils, a crooked nasal septum or the anatomy of the jaw. Or overweight causes the tongue to fall back during sleep, cutting off the air supply.
In addition, the overweight person’s entire weight presses on the chest in a supine position, which makes breathing even more difficult. This problem is often exacerbated by the consumption of alcohol. The muscle-relaxing effect of alcohol is noticeable in the area of the tongue.
A completely different cause of breathing difficulties can also be in the brain itself. This is called central sleep apnea. This is a malfunction of the brain region that controls the activity of the respiratory muscles.
This form of sleep apnea can be caused by a stroke, for example. Even neuroborreliosis can trigger breathing stops in this way. First of all, the person affected does not notice the breathing stops himself.
It is possible that the partner notices the pauses in breathing or the subsequent startle from sleep. In most cases, the affected person snores, which means that the breathing stops following snoring are particularly well noticed by the partner. But sleep apnoea without snoring is also possible.
As a person affected, one is usually more likely to notice the effects of the non-recuperative sleep. These include extreme tiredness during the day, lack of concentration and general lack of performance. The libido can also suffer from the lack of sleep.
Those affected often report severe headaches in the morning. As a result, problems such as high blood pressure or cardiac arrhythmia are often added to the problem. The reason for this is that the body believes it is suffocating with every pause in breathing and thus puts itself in a state of alarm.
In the process, a lot of stress hormones are released, which also increase the blood pressure. In the long run, these hormones are harmful to the body, especially since they are released at a time when the body should be recovering. In addition, there are the effects of the lack of oxygen in the brain.
For example, patients with respiratory failure show increased arteriosclerosis and thickening of the vascular wall, especially in the brain vessels. This leads to increased strokes or so-called TIAs, short-term circulatory disorders in the brain. Sleep apnoea syndrome can also develop in the acute phase and in the course of a stroke.
But then due to a central regulation disturbance in the brain. All in all, of course, not every snoring or irregularity in the breathing rhythm is dangerous. However, if there are more than 5 – 10 pauses in breathing, with a length of at least 10 seconds per hour, a sleep apnoea syndrome is likely.