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What is Sleep Apnea?

There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common. According to the National Institute of Health, millions of people are suffering from sleep apnea and don’t even realize it. Most cases of sleep apnea are caused because something blocks the soft tissues of the throat during sleep; obstructed breathing causes the sufferer to partially wake (called arousals) – and this can happen as many as 60 to 70 times per hour, resulting in fatigue and sleepiness the next day.

When people with sleep apnea try to breathe through an obstruction, they may snore loudly. Sleep apnea can affect anyone – even children. High-risk factors include being overweight or obese, having a large neck and using alcohol and tobacco. Obstructive sleep apnea and its symptoms increase the risk for elevated blood pressure, myocardial infarction, stroke, obesity, sexual dysfunction, memory loss, and driving and work-related accidents.

Sleep Apnea symptoms

  • interrupted breathing during sleep
  • snoring
  • gasping and choking during sleep
  • nighttime sweating
  • grinding of teeth
  • disrupted sleep
  • daytime fatigue or sleepiness

How is it treated?

Mild obstructive sleep apnea may be treated with conservative measures, such as losing weight and attempting to sleep on one’s side so the tongue does not fall backward. Most patients, however, need to wear a mask, called continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP, over their nose at night. CPAP has a fan that gently blows air into the nose and expands the throat, making breathing easier. Some patients may require nose, throat or jaw surgery.

Sleepy people who snore

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects millions of Americans, causing medical, emotional and social problems. If you suffer from snoring, fatigue and sleepiness, ask your doctor about getting a sleep study to diagnose this easily treatable problem.