Sleep apnea usually occurs every night, causing you to have irregular breathing patterns throughout the night. Each time an episode of sleep apnea occurs, your breathing might be impacted for anywhere between 10 and 30 seconds.
This usually occurs since your throat muscles relax too much, causing your airway to narrow more than usual, preventing the blood from receiving enough oxygen. Your brain will usually jerk you awake when this happens to breathe properly again.
When it comes to sleep apnea, how many times an hour it occurs is also important to consider. We can look at this in detail below while also examining factors that affect this frequency, how to determine it, its consequences as well as ways to solve the problem.
Frequency of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea tends to take place every night. In fact, it usually occurs multiple times each hour throughout the night. It can occur anywhere between 5 and 30 times every hour, going up to hundreds of times every night.
Whenever this happens, you might either choke, pant or grunt in order to deal with the lack of oxygen or breathing rate. This can also cause you to suddenly wake up to open up the pathway for the oxygen to pass through once again.
Frequent snoring can also take place throughout the night. The exact frequency of how many times an hour sleep apnea occurs every night can differ from person to person.
Factors Affecting the Frequency of Sleep Apnea
There are several factors that affect the frequency of sleep apnea each night. Let’s take a look at these factors in detail.
Being male can increase the chances of having sleep apnea along with how severe it is each night. With age, however, the chances increase if one is female as well, especially if they are overweight.
Being overweight or obese can increase the risks and frequency of sleep apnea each night as well. This is because the excess fat can collect in the airway, creating an interference there that prevents the oxygen from passing through properly, causing you to wake up more often throughout the night to breathe well again.
The frequency of sleep apnea increases as you get older as well. This is a natural occurrence since your tissues and muscles weaken due to wear and tear, leading to more relaxed muscles near the throat. This can obstruct sufficient oxygen from passing through the narrow airway.
Substance abuse can increase the frequency of sleep apnea. This is because large amounts of alcohol and drugs can weaken the throat muscles even more, causing the airway to become narrower. Smoking contributes to this as well since it can cause swelling in the airway while also collecting too much fluid.
There might be natural structural differences in your body apart from having more weight. For instance, your airway might be narrow since birth, your neck could be thicker, your jaw might be small, you might have large tonsils, you might frequently experience blocked noses or more. These can all lead to an increased frequency of sleep apnea at night.
Other associated conditions can also increase the frequency of sleep apnea. For example, diabetes, hypertension, asthma, hormonal fluctuations, genetic factors and more could all contribute to an increased frequency. Depression and insomnia can also increase this frequency significantly.
Usually, a combination of some of these factors can increase the intensity frequency of your sleep apnea each night.
How to Determine the Frequency of Sleep Apnea
You can determine the frequency of sleep apnea each night or figure out whether or not it occurs every night using the following ways.
- You can monitor your energy levels throughout the day to see how tired you are. You are likely to be more tired and drowsy with higher frequencies of apnea episodes throughout the night.
- If you experience frequent headaches, this could indicate a higher frequency as well.
- High stress levels, unregulated mood swings, depression and irritability can occur during the day as well.
- You can ask someone you trust and sleep with to record or document how often you wake up each time for a couple of hours.
Impact of Nightly Sleep Apnea
The impact of nightly sleep apnea can make itself visible the next day or even in the long term, especially if not treated on time.
- You might feel tired during the day with headaches, sleepiness, lack of productivity and lack of focus on your tasks.
- Depression or anxiety could also develop either in short episodes or in a chronic manner.
- You could develop insomnia over time, making it even more difficult for you to fall asleep.
- You might have a reduced libido.
- You might develop heart diseases, hypertension, liver issues, have a stroke or more.
Steps to Take
Generally, if you experience sleep apnea every night on a frequent basis, you should visit your doctor to determine the next few steps. These could be any of the following.
- You might need to start continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy and wear a mask each night to help you regulate your breathing.
- If the intensity is slightly lesser, it might be enough for you to wear an oral or dental device to help you breathe better throughout the night without snoring too much.
- You might also need to make lifestyle changes like reducing weight, eating healthier, drinking more water, exercising regularly, smoking and drinking lesser and more.
- Children (and sometimes adults) might be able to get rid of the issue with surgery if required.
To sum up, sleep apnea happens every night. In fact, it occurs multiple times each night and each hour. The exact frequency differs and depends on a range of factors such as sex, weight, age, structural differences, substance abuse and other medical conditions, among other factors.
There are several short-term and long-term impacts of frequent and severe sleep apnea as well as measures that you can take to deal with these impacts.