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What Is Sleep Apnea?

If you have this condition, you may feel exhausted during the day — even after a full night’s rest.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes you to stop breathing, or have very shallow breathing, while you sleep.


This pause in breathing can last for seconds or minutes and may occur 30 or more times in an hour.


If you have sleep apnea, you may not know that you’ve stopped breathing during the night. But you may wake up choking or gasping for air.


Sleep apnea episodes can also make you fall out of a deep sleep and into a light sleep, which affects the quality of your rest and may lead to tiredness throughout the day.


The disorder gets its name from the Greek word apnea, which means “without breath.”


Types of Sleep Apnea


There are three main types of sleep apnea:


Obstructive sleep apnea


This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It happens when muscles in the back of your throat fail to keep the airway open.


Central sleep apnea


In this form of sleep apnea, the brain doesn’t send the proper signals to control breathing while you sleep.


Complex, or “mixed,” sleep apnea syndrome


This condition has characteristics of both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.




Sleep apnea is a common condition. It affects more than 18 million adults in the United States, according to the National Sleep Foundation.


The organization also estimates that at least 2 to 3 percent of children have sleep apnea.


Many people with the disorder don’t know they have it.


According to the American Association for Respiratory Care, researchers believe that about 10 million Americans have undiagnosed sleep apnea.


What Causes Sleep Apnea?


In people with sleep apnea, the airway becomes blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches the lungs.


This can happen due to a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Your throat muscles and tongue relax more than usual.
  • Your tonsils and tongue are large compared with the opening of your windpipe.
  • You’re overweight, and the extra soft fat tissue thickens the wall of your windpipe, which makes it harder to keep open.
  • The shape of your head and neck contribute to a smaller airway size in your mouth and throat area.
  • Aging limits your brain’s ability to keep your throat muscles stiff during sleep.


Sleep Apnea Complications


Untreated sleep apnea can lead to many problems, including:


Daytime fatigue and trouble focusing People with sleep apnea are often drowsy, tired, and irritable due to interruptions in nighttime sleep.


Car crashes and other accidents If you have sleep apnea, you’re at higher risk for vehicle and workplace accidents.


Depression and other psychological conditions Not getting adequate sleep can lead to depression or anxiety. Children with sleep apnea may exhibit behavior problems.


High blood pressure or heart problems Sleep apnea can cause drops in blood oxygen levels, which can increase blood pressure and put stress on the cardiovascular system.


This raises your risk for heart rhythm disorders, stroke, and heart attack.


Prediabetes and type 2 diabetes Your chances of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes are higher if you have sleep apnea.


Liver disease People with sleep apnea are more likely to develop a nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.


Difficulties with medications and surgery You’re more likely to experience complications after taking certain medicines or undergoing major surgery because of the breathing problems associated with sleep apnea.


Tell your doctor if you have sleep apnea before having any medical procedure and before taking any new drug.


Memory problems Some people with sleep apnea report an increase in memory difficulties.


Weight gain Untreated sleep apnea may lead to unwanted weight gain.


Metabolic syndrome If you have sleep apnea, you’re more likely to develop a group of related conditions — including high blood pressure, abnormal blood triglycerides or cholesterol, and hyperglycemia (elevated blood sugar) — that may predict heart disease and other health problems.


Sexual dysfunction Sleep apnea is linked to impaired sexual function.



Article Source: Everyday Health