What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is disrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, in some cases this can occur hundreds of times in one night. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes.
Sleep apnea is usually a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep and as a consequence you spend more time in light sleep patterns and less time in deep, restorative sleep. This ultimately leads to excessive daytime sleepiness.
What are the Three Types of Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): The most common type of sleep apnea, it is typically caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea: This is a less common type of sleep apnea that involves the central nervous system. Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but instead the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing.
Complex Sleep Apnea: This is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
What are the Symptoms ?
It can be tough to identify sleep apnea, since the most prominent symptoms only occur when you’re asleep. But you can find out by asking a bed partner to observe your sleep habits, or by recording yourself during sleep.
Sleep apnea symptoms may include:
- Pauses occur while you snore, at times choking or gasping may follow the pauses
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Memory loss
- Loss of concentration
- Irritability, depression and mood swings
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon wakening
What are the Risk Factors ?
- Excess weight: Fat deposits around your upper airway can obstruct your breathing
- Neck circumference: People with a thicker neck may have a narrower airway
- Narrowed airway: You may have inherited a naturally narrow throat, enlarged tonsils or adenoids may also block your airway
- Gender: Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea than women
- Age: Sleep apnea occurs more often in adults older than 60
- Family history: If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk
- Race: If you are under the age of 35, African Americans are more likely to have OSA
- Alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers: Usage of these substances relaxes the muscles in your throat
- Smoking: Smokers are three times more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than people who have never smoked
- Nasal congestion: If you have difficulty breathing through your nose due to an anatomical problem or allergies, you’re more likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea