Heavy Breathing During Sleep: Unleashing The Mystery Behind It

Heavy breathing during sleep might be a mystery to you. However, it is more than just a mystery to the people surrounding you, especially your partner. They are the most affected at night since you possibly cause a lot of noise when you breathe. Aside from heavy breathing during sleep, it would help to know how a crooked nose might affect your sleep as well.

a man experiencing heavy breathing during sleep

Heavy breathing during sleep might be a mystery to you. However, it is more than just a mystery to the people surrounding you, especially your partner. They are the most affected at night since you possibly cause a lot of noise when you breathe. Aside from heavy breathing during sleep, it would help to know how a crooked nose might affect your sleep as well.

Heavy breathing during sleep

Sleep disorders can involve heavy breathing during sleep. The person who has this condition might not be completely aware of it. In this case, another family member or the partner can inform the patient about the situation.

In this case, that’s the only time the patient can go to the hospital to consult a doctor about the existing sleep disorders. The most common sleeping disorder that affects breathing is obstructive sleep apnea. However, sleep apnea comes in several variations, which only a physician specializing in apnea can determine.

Sleep apnea

This sleeping disorder does not only showcase heavy breathing during sleep. Eventually, the breathing encounters repeated pauses while asleep. Additionally, these pauses may take last between 10 to 20 seconds. Besides that, it can happen numerous times per hour.

As a result of this disorder, you tend to sleep very lightly. Furthermore, you seldomly fall into a deep sleep, which is necessary to keep you energetic, mentally sharp, and productive on the following day.

Besides that, it can even lead to the risk of developing other health issues. On the worst part, some of these health issues can be deadly. For this reason, sleep apnea requires immediate treatment.

Types of sleep apnea

As we mentioned earlier, this sleeping disorder that incurs heavy breathing during sleep has different types. We will differentiate them individually for us to understand them better.

1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

This type of sleeping disorder causes breathing stoppage because of the obstructions present in the upper airway. When the muscles supporting the soft tissues in the upper airway relax, it blocks the normal airflow in and out of the nose and mouth.

Common symptoms

When you or your partner determine any of the following signs, it would be best to have it checked by a medical professional for immediate treatment.

a wife cannot sleep due to loud noises from husband
  • Sleeping excessively during daytime
  • Exerting loud snores
  • Frequent episodes of breathing pauses during sleep
  • Waking up abruptly while gasping or choking
  • Waking up with dry or sore throat
  • Early morning headaches
  • Inability to concentrate on any activity during the day
  • Mood swings
  • High blood pressure
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Decreased libido

Typical causes of OSA

In general, several factors can increase the risk of experiencing this type of sleeping disorder. We have listed some of them below.

  • Age and gender: Men are usually prone to develop OSA than women do. Only when women reach the menopausal stage. Age at 50s and 60s can also increase the risks, then levels off afterwards.
  • Weight: Overweight or obesity also has a factor in increasing the risk of developing OSA.
  • Upper airway and craniofacial abnormalities: This condition involves short mandibles, enlargement of tonsils, and an unusual bigger size of upper jawbones. A deviated septum can also cause breathing issues.
  • Neck size: A larger neck circumference increases the risk of experiencing blockage in the upper airway.
  • Smoking: Smokers tend to experience OSA more likely than non-smokers.

2. Central sleep apnea (CSA)

This type of sleep apnea involves the central nervous system. In this condition, the brain temporarily stops sending signals to the muscles in control of breathing.

Additionally, CSA has an association with an underlying condition. Otherwise, you will refer to it as idiopathic CSA if no underlying condition exists.

Common symptoms

A woman experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness while at work.
  • Disjointed sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Thinking problems
  • Excessive moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness

In contrast with OSA, snoring is not a typical symptom of CSA.

Factors causing CSA

These are only a few of the potential causes of CSA.

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Neurological disorders
  • Spinal injury

Other chronic illnesses may also lead to the development of CSA. For this reason, it would be best to consult your doctor. This way, you can know what exactly your condition is.

3. Complex or mixed sleep apnea (CompSA)

This type of sleeping disorder is the combined condition of the first two types we mentioned above. The patient with this condition experiences breathing stoppage from 20 to 30 times per hour every night.


A doctor makes their diagnosis bases on the number of breathing pauses the patient experience per hour of sleep through the sleep study.

Additionally, they also consider the symptoms that patient shows or their family members observe from them.

There are three categories to classify the level of a patient’s sleeping disorder.

  • Mild: This category consists of 5-15 breathing pauses per hour.
  • Moderate: For this category, the patient shows 15-30 breathing episodes per hour.
  • Severe: The last category indicates more than 30 breathing pauses per hour.

After unleashing these details, you might be thinking already how scary this sleeping disorder is.

On the positive side, there are several ways to treat this condition. When you immediately undergo treatment, the good news is that it can make significant differences in you, both mentally and physically.

Treatment for heavy breathing during sleep

Treatment options can vary depending on the severity of the sleep apnea. Your doctor can initially recommend lifestyle changes to reduce your episodes.

a. Lifestyle treatments

Do your best. You will lose weight. You can definitely do it.
  • Lose weight: Maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight can help you open up your throat and improve your sleeping disorder.
  • Regular exercises: Aside from losing weight, exercising can help reduce apnea episodes and makes changes in your daily productivity.
  • Sleep sidewards: Sleeping in this position helps open up your upper airway.
  • Avoid alcohol intake, anxiety medicines, and other sedatives before bedtime: These factors can interfere with your breathing condition.
Other tips to consider
  • Elevate your head.
  • Open your nasal passages at night.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Avoid caffeine and heavy meals intake before going to bed.

Aren’t these lifestyle changes easy to do? Some of them may require efforts from you. However, excellent benefits are waiting for you in the end.

b. Therapies

  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): This machine supplies air pressure through a mask while you are asleep. It keeps your upper airway passages to remain open.
  • Other airway pressure devices: If CPAP does not match your need, you may try another type of airway pressure device. Your doctor will suggest the use of other airway pressure devices, such as auto-CPAP and BiPAP.
  • Oral appliances: The devices are easier to use than CPAP. These devices are available from your dentist.
  • Supplemental oxygen: It is an excellent option if you have CSA. Some oxygens have devices that will help maintain the oxygen supply to your lungs.
  • Adaptive servo-ventilation (ASV): It continuously monitors the patient’s breathing patterns and stores them into a computer. Pressure adjustment occurs when their breathing pattern changes.

c. Surgical options

Generally speaking, surgery will be your doctor’s last resort if the other treatments did not work out.

  • Tissue removal: Involves removing tissues from the rear of the mouth and top of the throat. Additionally, your doctor might remove your tonsils and adenoids as well.
  • Tissue shrinkage: Instead of removal, the doctor will shrink the rear part of the mouth, and the throat’s back part using radiofrequency ablation.
  • Jaw repositioning: In this procedure, your jaw will undergo forward movement from the remainder of the facial bones.
  • Nerve stimulation: It involves inserting a nerve stimulator in the controller of tongue movement.
  • Tracheostomy: It is the insertion of a metal or plastic tube where you will breathe. It will be a new airway passage.
  • Implants: It is the insertion of soft rods into the soft palate.

Final thoughts

Sleeping disorders can be scary at first, but the proper treatment will get you through it. Sweet dreams!

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