What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep.
There are three types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the more common, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep
- Central sleep apnea (CSA): Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, the brain does not send the correct message to the muscles inhibiting regular airflow.
- Complex sleep apnea syndrome: occurs when someone has both sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the uvula, the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue. When this happens your airway narrows or closes and air can not flow freely to your lungs so your brain and the rest of your body may not get enough oxygen.These gaps in breathing are called apneas. According to the America Lung Association, pauses in breathing can be just a few seconds to minutes, and occur as little as 5 to as many as 30 times per hour, all night long. Your brain senses this and briefly wakes you up so that you can reopen your airway. People with sleep apnea may not be aware that their sleep is interrupted. Many people with sleep apnea think that they sleep well all night long and never remember waking during the night.
Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea:
- High blood pressure
- Morning headaches
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased libido
- Daytime sleepiness. Generally, patients risk falling asleep during the day while performing routine activities such as reading, watching TV, sitting inactively, lying down, or riding in a car while a passenger or stopped for a few minutes in traffic.
- Nighttime sweating
- Loud snoring. This is usually more prominent in OSA.
- Attention Deficits and Hyperactivity. Problems in attention and hyperactivity are common in children with sleep apnea. There is some evidence that such children may be misdiagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.