Depending on severity, a patient with deviated nasal septum can develop obstructive sleep apnea.
To understand what is a nasal septum, and how to identify it, check the following short video. As you will notice, if the appearance of your nasal septum is not upright, but has an irregular pattern, then you have a deviated nasal septum.
Breathing Problems With Deviated Septum
Nasal airflow is crucial to normal breathing because anything that causes airway contraction can lead to breathing difficulties. The nasal septum is regularly curved from birth or as the result of blunt trauma throughout childhood or adulthood.
A patient with nasal blocking will usually open his mouth during sleep, and this reflex contributes to breathing disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea.
Besides, nasal breathing has two unique characteristics that define it from mouth breathing:
First of all, the nose functions as a heating component. Did you ever notice that if you inhale through your mouth, you will get an extremely dry mouth and throat?
The air flowing through the nose is slightly warmed and enters the lungs at a temperature more comfortable for the body.
Second, the nose works as a filter for dust particles and other pollutants that are inhaled from the air. Moreover, there are individual sensors in the nose that relay information to the brain’s respiratory center on airflow moving over them.
By using these sensors, the nose actively plays in controlling and managing respiration. Without these sensors, we could not correctly understand how much air flows into our lungs.
Could a Deviated Septum Cause Sleep Apnea?
If the person opens his mouth during sleep (if he has nasal obstruction), this reflex will cause sleep apnea and snore by narrowing the pharyngeal lumen (the space in the center of the pharynx which enables the passage of food) in two different ways:
While opening the mouth while sleeping, the chin and rest of the jaw move posteriorly and inferiorly to relocate the tongue in that particular direction. This causes to narrow the pharyngeal airway directly.
Second, opening the mouth reduces the stretch and tension of the tissues surrounding the airway, increasing the airway obstruction.
Attempting to breathe through the nose despite the blockage, reinforces the negative pressure in the thorax.
If there is a reduction somewhere in the upper airways (the central cause of sleep apnea), the pressure will drive, according to the Bernoulli principle, to a wreck at the point of narrowing, resulting in apneas during sleep.
This hypothesis gained further evidence when it became evident that a misshapen nasal septum – a usual cause of narrowed nasal airways – is extremely prevalent in sleep apnea syndrome patients.
Nasal obstruction does not strictly cause sleep apnea because the collapse of the airways does not occur in the nose. However, indirectly, there is a connection between nasal septum deviation and breathing disorders, including snoring and sleep apnea.
Read more about snoring and sleep apnea disorder.
So, removing the obstruction of the nasal passages will help you improve breathing during sleep and even prevent the failure of the airway (sleep apnea).