THE BASICS: “What is Sleep Apnea?”

Sleep Apnea is a serious condition characterized by interrupted breathing during sleep. The interruptions can occur multiple times with oxygen deprivation to the brain and body with each event.

There are two types of sleep apnea:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea- from an airway block, typically from soft tissue at the back of the throat collapsing during sleep.
  2. Central sleep apnea- the less common type, where the muscles lack signals from the brain to breathe with instability in the breathing control center.

Who’s At Risk

Although sleep apnea can occur at any age, those at higher risk are:

  • Middle to older age men
  • Postmenopausal women
  • Those with abnormal head and neck structure
  • Those with large neck size (>17inches for men, >16 inches for women)
  • Down Syndrome
  • Children with large tonsils and adenoids
  • Certain endocrine disorders like Acromegaly and Hypothyroidism
  • Nasal structure abnormalities (deviated septum, rhinitis)
  • Obesity (BMI > 30)
  • Family history of sleep apnea
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux)

Effects of Sleep Apnea

Harmful results of sleep apnea include:

  • Hypertension (blood pressure elevation)
  • Higher mortality from heart disease
  • Fast heart rate
  • Fluctuating oxygen levels
  • Increased stroke risk
  • Impairment of glucose tolerance and insulin resistance
  • Mood changes
  • Decreased ability to focus and concentrate
  • Increase risk of car accidents
  • Sleep disturbance of bed partner

Symptoms

  • Loud snoring
  • Sleepiness during the day or while driving
  • Restless sleep
  • Waking up with gasp
  • Walking up with dry throat or soreness
  • Insomnia
  • Mood changes
  • Loss of libido
  • Concentration difficulties
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