Understanding the Link Between Deviated Septum and Sleep Apnea: Causes and Treatments

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Determining whether a deviated septum can cause sleep apnea necessitates an understanding of what sleep apnea truly entails. Sleep apnea is a prevalent sleep disorder that happens when a person’s breathing is intermittently interrupted during sleep. Three main types of sleep apnea have been identified: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), Central sleep apnea (CSA), and Mixed sleep apnea. The most common type, obstructive sleep apnea, occurs due to an obstruction in the airway, generally when the throat muscles periodically relax and close while a person is asleep.

A key characteristic of sleep apnea is loud snoring, although not everyone who snores has this sleep disorder. Distinctive signs of sleep apnea include gasping for air during sleep, recurrent periods during sleep when you stop breathing, awakening with a dry mouth and experiencing difficulty sleeping or insomnia. Considering these symptoms, it’s important to be attentive and aware as continuous interruptions of breathing can lead to numerous health complications if not appropriately managed.

It’s important to understand how a deviated septum potentially plays a role in affecting these breathing processes. The septum is the thin piece of divider tissue located between your nostrils. It normally sits in the center of your nose, dividing your nostrils equally. However, if it is deviated or displaced, it can cause one nasal passage to be smaller. This could provoke breathing difficulties and potentially contribute to sleep apnea.

As the discussion about the relationship between a deviated septum and sleep apnea continues, it’s worth noting that other factors, like obesity, smoking, and alcohol use also influence the risk of developing sleep apnea. Recognizing these factors can be beneficial in understanding the whole picture and puts the possible role of a deviated septum into perspective.

What is a Deviated Septum?

A deviated septum is an often-overlooked condition that can have a significant impact on one’s quality of life. Let’s delve into what it means and how it can affect your sleep patterns.

The septum is a wall of bone and cartilage that divides the nose into two separate nostrils. In its ideal state, it’s perfectly straight and equally divides both nostrils. However, in some individuals, this septum is off-center or skewed, making one nostril larger than the other. This condition is what medical practitioners refer to as a deviated septum.

Though deviated septums come in varying degrees of severity, they’re quite common. Medical estimates suggest that almost 80% of individuals have some form of deviation in their nasal septum, although not all experience symptoms.

Contrary to common assumption, a deviated septum isn’t always a result of an injury or trauma to the nose. Many individuals are born with it. For others, it could develop as they grow and their nose changes shape.

As for the link between a deviated septum and sleep apnea, it all comes down to restrictions in the airflow. Air enters through the nostrils and proceeds down the throat to the lungs. A significantly deviated septum may cause a blockage in one nostril, forcing an individual to breathe primarily through the other nostril. This limited airflow can potentially cause snoring and breathing difficulties during sleep – both common symptoms of sleep apnea.

While it’s clear that a deviated septum can have an impact on the severity of sleep apnea, it is by no means the sole cause. Factors like obesity, smoking, and alcohol use can also significantly influence the risk of developing sleep apnea.

In upcoming sections, we’ll explore the diagnostic processes for a deviated septum and potential treatment options to mitigate its impact on sleep apnea.

The Relationship between a Deviated Septum and Sleep Apnea

Understanding the connection between a deviated septum and sleep apnea is critical for both patients and healthcare professionals in making informed decisions about treatment plans. A deviated septum, which refers to the displacement of the bone and cartilage dividing the nostrils, can lead to breathing difficulties. Sleep apnea, on the other hand, is a disorder marked by breathing interruptions during sleep.

The core of this relationship lies in the nasal passage’s function. Under normal conditions, the septum sits centrally, allowing for a smooth and balanced airflow through both nostrils. However, if it deviates, more air goes in one nostril and less in the other. Over time, this uneven airflow can cause a host of issues, including difficulties in breathing, particularly during sleep, when the body’s voluntary control of breathing decreases.

Sleep apnea can occur due to the nocturnal breathing problems brought about by a deviated septum. As the air passages become constricted, it’s harder for air to reach the lungs. This situation can result in moments of breathlessness during sleep, a characteristic symptom of sleep apnea.

However, it’s essential to eliminate any misconceptions. Not everyone who has a deviated septum will develop sleep apnea- it’s just one potential contributing factor. Other factors such as obesity, smoking, and alcohol use hold significant weight in influencing the risk of sleep apnea.

The upcoming sections will delve into the diagnostic processes for a deviated septum and the prospective treatment routes one can take to lessen its impact on sleep apnea. After all, the end goal is to alleviate sleep apnea symptoms and ensure a good night’s sleep for everyone. Armed with this knowledge, patients are better equipped to understand their symptoms and seek the right treatment.

The Impact of a Deviated Septum on Breathing

When addressing the issue of a deviated septum and its potential link to sleep apnea, it’s crucial to understand how this nasal abnormality impacts breathing. Remember, a deviated septum can disturb the balance of airflow in the nasal passages. This imbalance occurs when the septum — the thin wall separating the two nostrils — deviates, or shifts, to one side. That results in one nasal passage becoming narrow. In some cases, it may even close off.

With a deviated septum, the individual could experience a host of difficulties in breathing. The air’s path into the body becomes constricted. Moreover, any normal breathing can become strenuous, particularly during sleep when the body’s unconscious control mechanisms are active. Waking up gasping for air, experiencing bouts of breathlessness and disruptive snoring are some of the challenges one might face.

While not every person with a deviated septum will go on to develop sleep apnea, those who do will find this abnormality magnifies the condition’s effects. Imagine a scenario where the effort to inhale is already compromised by elements like obesity, smoking or alcohol, and then there’s the added challenge of an obstructed nasal passage. The obstruction of the airway can further impact the breathing process and exacerbate the possibility of experiencing intermittent bouts of apnea or pauses in breathing.

Although the correlation between sleep apnea and a deviated septum isn’t universally absolute, the factor of a deviated septum causing uneven/abnormal airflow and subsequent breathing difficulty is definitive. It’s important to take into account these factors when exploring comprehensive treatment approaches for sleep apnea, particularly for individuals with a co-existing deviated septum. The next few sections will delve into the diagnostic procedures for a deviated septum and shed light on treatment options to decrease its impact on sleep apnea.

Treatment Options for Sleep Apnea and a Deviated Septum

In treating sleep apnea associated with a deviated septum, doctors usually consider a two-pronged approach. This includes managing sleep apnea symptoms and correcting the deviated septum itself.

Managing Sleep Apnea Symptoms

Doctors initially recommend lifestyle changes which can remarkably improve sleep apnea symptoms. This might involve:

  • Modifying sleeping habits
  • Using positional therapy
  • Conducting regular exercise
  • Limiting alcohol and nicotine

Apart from lifestyle changes, medical aids such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) machines are frequently utilized. Both CPAP and BiPAP machines help to keep the airways open during sleep, facilitating uninterrupted breathing.

Medical AidPurpose
CPAPKeeps the airways open during sleep
BiPAPHelps with breathing rhythm

Correcting the Deviated Septum

When lifestyle changes and medical aids aren’t sufficient to alleviate sleep apnea, surgical interventions might be necessary to correct the deviated septum.

Septoplasty and Turbinate reduction are the common surgeries performed. During Septoplasty, the surgeon works to straighten the deviated nasal septum. Turbinate reduction surgery, on the other hand, seeks to decrease the size of the nasal turbinates, which can enlarge due to the deviated septum, causing blockage.

SeptoplastyStraightens the deviated nasal septum
Turbinate reductionMinimizes the size of the nasal turbinates

However, it’s crucial to remember that choosing treatment options should be under the guidance of a healthcare professional. As each individual is different, the most efficient method of treatment may vary significantly between patients.

That covers the common treatment options for sleep apnea and a deviated septum. The next part of the article will focus on the benefits and potential risks associated with these treatments.


Dealing with the dual challenge of a deviated septum and sleep apnea requires strategic planning and personal commitment from the patients’ end. Yes, treatments are available. Yet it’s their effectiveness that counts the most. The success of treatments is highly dependent on how well they suit the individual and address their specific situation.

Healthcare professionals prioritize patient safety and the enhancement of quality life above all else. When it comes to sleep apnea and a deviated septum, they lean on multiple techniques to craft a balanced solution.

Lifestyle modifications are commonly the first line of defense. They include supervised weight loss programs, positional therapy, and managing alcohol consumption. While these changes may seem minor, they have significant potential to improve nighttime breathing. If these lifestyle changes don’t provide sufficient relief, medical intervention becomes the next go-to.

The use of Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) or Bilevel PAP (BiPAP) machines is the most common form of medical intervention. These machines work by supplying a steady flow of air to keep the airways open and facilitate easy breathing during sleep. However, adjusting to these machines may take time and patience.

In case lifestyle changes and medical aid are not yielding the desired results, surgical intervention might be recommended. Procedures such as septoplasty (straightening of the septum), and turbinate reduction (shrinking of the nasal passages) help to permanently address the physical anomalies that trigger sleep apnea.

Let’s dive deep into the benefits and potential complications associated with these treatment options. Remember, any form of treatment should only be pursued under the consultation and guidance of a certified healthcare professional.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can a deviated septum cause sleep apnea?

Yes, a deviated septum can disrupt airflow in the nasal passages and cause difficulties in breathing. This disruption can worsen during sleep and potentially provoke instances of apnea, though not everyone with a deviated septum will develop sleep apnea.

Are there specific diagnostic procedures for a deviated septum?

Yes, to diagnose a deviated septum, medical professionals employ a variety of tools and methods. This can include a physical examination, the study of medical history, and certain diagnostic tests. More information on this is detailed in the article.

What are the treatment options for sleep apnea due to a deviated septum?

The treatment options for a deviated septum related sleep apnea can vary based on the severity of the condition. Options can include lifestyle modifications, use of medical aids like CPAP and BiPAP machines, or surgical interventions such as septoplasty and turbinate reduction.

Is surgical intervention always necessary for a deviated septum?

No, surgical intervention is not always necessary. Treatment for a deviated septum can include simpler approaches like lifestyle changes or use of medical aids. Surgery is typically considered when other treatments have failed or, the condition is significantly obstructing breathing.

Are there any risks associated with the treatments for deviated septum and sleep apnea?

Like with any medical treatment, potential risks do exist. These can range from minor to serious and depend on the specific treatment method implemented. Consult with a healthcare professional for more detailed information.