Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which the soft tissues at the back of the throat completely close off the airway so that air cannot flow into the lungs. This airway blockage can reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the brain and body. When that happens, the brain alerts the muscles in the airway to tighten up and unblock the air passage. This leads to a cycle of blocking and unblocking the airway and causes significant disruption of sleep.
The most common symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are:
Sleep apnea is a health problem that can be associated with high blood pressure, heart problems and stroke. It is important for patients to see a physician or a sleep disorder specialist if they are experiencing snoring and daytime sleepiness.
Sleep apnea is an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the patient is asleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixes. Of the three, obstructive sleep apnea, often called OSA for short, is the most common, Despite the difference in the root cause of each type, in all three, people with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. In most cases the sleeper is unaware of these breath stoppages because the don’t trigger a full awakening.
Left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious and life-shortening consequences: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, depression, and other ailments.
Other indications that sleep apnea may be present are obesity, persistent daytime sleepiness, bouts of awakening out of breath during the night and frequently walking in the morning with a dry mouth or a headache. But none of these symptoms is always present. Only a sleep study in a sleep laboratory or a home sleep study can show definitively that sleep apnea is present and how severe it is.
Sleep apnea is very common, as common as type 2 diabetes. If affects more than 18 million Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Risk factors include being male, overweight, and over the age of 40, but sleep apnea can strike anyone at any age, even children. Yet still because of the lack of awareness by the public and health care professionals, the cast majority of sleep apnea patients remain undiagnosed and therefore untreated, despite the fact that this serious disorder can have significant consequences.
Untreated, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, impotence, and headaches. Moreover, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for job impairment and motor vehicle crashes. Fortunately, sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated. Several treatment options exist, and research into additional options continues.
Snoring is a problem that affects 67% of adults. It is conservatively estimated over 120 million people in the United States snore every night. Snoring can cause disrupted sleep for both snorers and their sleeping partners and it can lead to health problems.
Snoring is the harsh sound that occurs when the tissue at the back of the roof of the mouth vibrates against the back of the throat. During sleep, throat tissues, the tongue and the muscles that line the airway all relax, narrowing the airway. Air passing through the narrower airway cause the tissues to vibrate against each other and create the snoring sound that can grow louder during sleep. Snoring may also be an indication of a bigger health problem; sleep apnea.
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