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What is Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea?

Do you wake up exhausted? Does your partner complain about your snoring? You may be one of up to 6% of people who suffer from sleep apnea – in obese people that number is 77% – and you may not know you have it.

The Three Types of Sleep Apnea

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – the most common – where the tissue of the throat closes over the airway, causing you to stop breathing
  • Central sleep apnea – which is not as common as OSA – where the brain or nerves fail to signal the muscles that control breathing to tell them that you need to take a breath
  • Combination or mixed sleep apnea where obstructive and central sleep apnea occur together

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep apnea occurs when the pharyngeal muscles in your throat relax so much during sleep that your breathing gets blocked momentarily. When this happens, your brain notices the lack of oxygen in your blood, wakes you just enough for your conscious mind to tense the muscles and take a breath. You fall back into a deeper sleep and the cycle continues – usually without you even noticing.

Sleep apnea results in feeling as though you are lacking in oxygen. You are sleepy most of the time, yet awaken with a sense of exhaustion. Some sleep apnea sufferers may fall asleep at work or while driving. Your partner may complain about your snoring.

The earlier the detection of your sleep apnea, the better the treatment will work instead of damaging your health, relationship, or work performance.

For more information please visit the All About Sleep Apnea website

Is it Normal to Stop Breathing Like this?

It is normal to stop breathing, wake a little, breathe and fall into a deeper sleep again

Everyone does it occasionally, however when it happens more than five times per hour, you have sleep apnea. In severe cases, it can happen more than 30 times per hour.

Who gets OSA?

Obstructive Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups – including newborn babies – but is most common in people over 50 years old and people who are overweight. It is also more common in men than women5. Other physical characteristics that may predispose you to sleep apnea are large tonsils, large and short neck, some thyroid conditions, and obesity. Also, drinking alcohol or taking sedatives or sleeping pills before sleep can relax your throat and make your sleep apnea worse.

Symptoms of OSA

You may have sleep apnea if you have more than two or three of these symptoms:

  • Snoring – many sleep apnea patients are referred to the doctor because their snoring keeps their partner awake
  • Feeling sleepy during the day – some seek treatment after falling asleep while driving or at work
  • Poor concentration
  • Feeling depressed, irritable and mood changes 
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Nightmares
  • Waking up with a sore or dry throat
  • Morning headaches

Why is OSA Unhealthy?

People who suffer from sleep apnea often suffer from other conditions associated with, and possibly caused by, sleep apnea.

By treating your sleep apnea, you may also be able to reduce the severity of, or risk of suffering from :

  • Poor cardiovascular health
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes

Am I at risk of having OSA?

Try this quiz to assess your likelihood of having sleep apnea and whether you should see your doctor