What Is Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition in which you experience pauses in breathing during sleep due (most commonly) to obstructed airways (obstructive sleep apnea). These breathing pauses can last only a few seconds to minutes at a time and can happen as frequently as 30 times an hour or more. In an attempt to kick start your breathing again,  you will move out of deep sleep and into light sleep, resulting in a poor quality of sleep.

Most people who suffer from sleep apnea are not even aware of it since it only occurs during sleep. A family member or partner is usually the first to notice a problem when the the following symptoms occur:

  • Excessive or loud snoring
  • Shallow breathing
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Loud snorts or choking sounds when breathing resumes

Shallow breathing or breathing pauses are caused by the airways become blocked or collapse during sleep. Any air that tries to squeeze past the partially collapsed airway may result in loud snoring. Although obstructive sleep apnea can affect anyone, it is more common in those who are overweight.

Another type of sleep apnea is called central sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is a condition where the area of your brain that controls breathing doesn’t send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. You simply don’t breathe during these brief episodes.

Central sleep apnea:

  • Can affect anyone, but is more common in people who have certain medical conditions or use certain medications
  • Can occur in conjunction with obstructive sleep apnea
  • Typically occurs without snoring

Sleep apnea is a serious condition which, left untreated, can increase the risk of:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Work-related or driving accidents due to the resulting excessive daytime sleepiness

Speak to your doctor about the long-term management of this chronic condition. Your doctor will most likely recommend a sleep study to help identify the lifestyle changes, breathing devices, and surgery that can help you successfully treat and manage your sleep apnea.




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