What Is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that causes sufferers to start and stop breathing repeatedly during the night. Predicting who will suffer from sleep apnea can be difficult, as it can manifest in virtually anyone, regardless of age, gender or body type.
There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. The more common of the two is obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when the airway is blocked repeatedly throughout the night, limiting one’s oxygen intake.
When your lungs don’t receive adequate air, you’ll start to snore, make choking noises or gasp for air as you attempt to breathe. You may wake up multiple times as your body and brain become oxygen deprived. In less severe cases, this only happens a few times per night, but some people struggle with this several hundred times a night. Most people don’t remember waking up multiple times throughout the night, but they do wonder why they are so tired throughout the day after a supposedly full night of sleep.
What Causes Sleep Apnea?
In most cases, sleep apnea is caused by the collapse of throat tissue. As the throat muscles relax when you fall asleep, the tongue can fall back and narrow the airways for oxygen to reach your lungs. The inability to receive sufficient oxygen causes the tissue in the back of your throat to vibrate as you try to suck in more air, resulting in snoring, choking and/or gasping. Your brain will sense a lack of oxygen and rouse you from sleep briefly.
These brief awakenings throughout the night reopen your airway, but can leave you feeling tired and unrefreshed. You’ll notice other symptoms including fatigue, difficulty concentrating or daytime sleepiness. The lack of oxygen can also have many long-term consequences and increase your risk for health issues, including:
- Heart Disease
- Hyperactive Behavior
- High Blood Pressure
- Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes
How Can I Determine If I Have Sleep Apnea?
While snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea, not all people who snore have sleep apnea. If you’re concerned you may have sleep apnea, check to see if you display any other symptoms or risk factors associated with this sleep disorder. Many people with sleep apnea have yet to be diagnosed or treated. We encourage you to meet with our board-certified sleep medicine physician to see if you need treatment.