Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which a person experiences repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses, or apneas, can last for several seconds to a minute or longer and can occur many times per hour throughout the night.
There are two main types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): This is the most common type of sleep apnea, accounting for about 80% of cases. It occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep, leading to breathing pauses and snoring.
Central sleep apnea (CSA): This occurs when the brain fails to send the proper signals to the muscles that control breathing during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing.
Symptoms of sleep apnea can include:
- Loud snoring
- Pauses in breathing during sleep
- Gasping or choking during sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Dry mouth or sore throat upon waking
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering things
- Irritability or mood changes
- Decreased libido
Risk factors for sleep apnea
- Being overweight, having a large neck circumference, having a family history of the disorder, and having a narrowed airway due to nasal congestion or structural abnormalities.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a type of sleep apnea in which the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open during sleep, causing breathing pauses and snoring. It is the most common type of sleep apnea and affects about 20% of adults.
- The repeated breathing pauses during sleep can result in decreased oxygen levels in the blood, leading to a range of health problems, including:
- Daytime sleepiness and fatigue
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Depression and anxiety
- High blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems
- Type 2 diabetes
- Metabolic syndrome
- Liver problems
- Increased risk of accidents, such as car crashes
There are several risk factors that can increase a person's likelihood of developing obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):
- Alcohol and sedative use
- Family history
- Certain medical conditions
When to see a pulmonologist
- Waking up choking or gasping
- Snoring loud enough to disturb your sleep
- Intermittent pauses in your breathing during sleep
- Excessive daytime drowsiness
The treatment for sleep apnea depends on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. The following are some common treatment options:
- Lifestyle changes
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)
- Oral appliances
- Other treatments