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What is Sleep Apnea?

Jan 21, 2016

Posted in : What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs due to interrupted breathing during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea are found to skip breathing several times during their sleep, can be a hundreds of times over one night. This state of missing breath means the brain, heart and the rest of the body may not get enough oxygen to function properly.

The most common type of sleep apnea is 'Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)' which is caused due to the blockage of the airway by the soft tissues in the back of the throat. During sleep these tissues can sometimes collapse to block the airway causing sleep disorders. When you try to breathe harder, any air that squeezes past through the blockage can cause loud snoring. OSA is more common in people who are overweight, but it can affect anyone, even small children who have enlarged tonsils tissues in their throats.

The other less common type of sleep apnea is central sleep apnea. Unlike in OSA, a central sleep apnea does not involve blocking of the airway, but in this the brain fails to send signals to the muscles that help in breathing. As a result, a person with central sleep apnea makes no effort to breathe for brief periods. This can affect anyone, but is more common in people having certain medical conditions or taking certain medicines. Snoring typically does not happen with central sleep apnea.

How to know if you are at risk for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone of any age including the children, but you are at higher risk if you match with any of the following characteristics:

  • Being overweight
  • Being over age 40
  • Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
  • Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea
  • Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
  • Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
What Are the side effects of Sleep Apnea?

If not treated properly, sleep apnea can result in a number of health problems, that includes but are not limited to the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD
  • Headaches

In addition to the above sleep apnea may also be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities or routine tasks at work, school or home, academic underachievement in children and adults.

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