What Is Sleep Apnea?
Here's a simple response to the question of what is sleep apnea: sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep.
Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They often occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
Sleep apnea usually is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow.
This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Most people who have sleep apnea don't know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member and/or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea. This most often means that the airway has collapsed or is blocked during sleep. The blockage may cause shallow breathing or breathing pauses.
When you try to breathe, any air that squeezes past the blockage can cause loud snoring.
Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea. It happens when the area of your brain that controls your breathing doesn't send the correct signals to your breathing muscles. You make no effort to breathe for brief periods.
Central sleep apnea often occurs with obstructive sleep apnea, but it can occur alone. Snoring doesn't typically happen with central sleep apnea.
Untreated, sleep apnea can:
* Increase the risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, and diabetes
* Increase the risk for or worsen heart failure
* Make irregular heartbeats more likely
* Increase the chance of having work-related or driving accidents and/or cause sexual dysfunction
CPAP machines, sleep apnea dental devices and sleep apnea surgery are all treatments for sleep apnea.