What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a very common disorder in which a person has pauses in breathing during 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 sleep 3 or more nights each week. Often, a person will move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when breathing pauses or becomes shallow.

The result is poor sleep quality that leaves one feeling fatigued and sleepy throughout the day. In fact, sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.

With each apnea event, the brain briefly arouses people with sleep apnea in order for them to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed. Doctors usually can't detect the condition during routine office visits. Also, there are no blood tests for the condition.

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.

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