Sleep Apnea is a common but serious sleep disorder. The disorder is caused by repetitive periods when airflow is interrupted during sleep due to a narrowing or closure to the throat. A complete blockage of airflow is an apnea, and a partial interruption is a hypopnea. Each apnea or hypopnea can result in drops in oxygen levels and brief awakenings or sleep disturbances. Typical symptoms of Sleep Apnea are snoring, snorting or gasping during sleep, unrefreshed sleep, and daytime sleepiness.
These multiple breathing interruptions may prevent you from sleeping well, leaving you feeling extra tired during the day. The disorder can also stress your heart and other organs due to the recurrent drops in oxygen levels, which can cause abnormalities in blood pressure, levels of hormones, inflammation, and other changes. There are many possible consequences of sleep apnea, and different people can experience different problems. Some people may experience daytime fatigue or sleepiness, problems thinking and concentrating, and mood problems. Untreated sleep apnea may increase the risk of motor vehicle crashes or work-related accidents, poor control of blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and liver problems.
The most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissues in the back of the throat relaxes during sleep and blocks the airway, often causing you to snore loudly. Since sleep apnea only occurs while you are asleep, you may not know you have a problem until a bed partner or roommate complains about your snoring.
Central Sleep Apnea
A much less common type of sleep apnea but is more common in people with heart failure or who have had a stroke. There are also rare genetic disorders and diseases of the brain and muscles that cause central sleep apnea. In central sleep apnea, breathing can be interrupted when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing.
Complex Sleep Apnea
Is characterized by the existence of both “Central” Apneas and “Obstructive” Apneas. This can have multiple causes. More information on this disorder can be found here.
Who is at Risk?
Anyone can have sleep apnea, regardless of age, sex or body type. However, having any of the following factors may put you at increased risk:
The following is a list of common symptoms or signs of sleep apnea. Some people have several and others have only one or two of these symptoms. Sleep apnea is not always recognized, so if you have any of these symptoms or problems it may be helpful to discuss your risk of sleep apnea with your doctor.
Loud or frequent snoring
Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — either waking you up or reported by a person who observed you.
Gasping for air during sleep
Daytime tiredness or exhaustion
Waking up feeling unrefreshed
Poorly controlled blood pressure
Waking with a dry mouth
Difficulty staying asleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Difficulty paying attention or trouble concentrating