WHAT IS SLEEP APNEA?
CAUSES & SYMPTOMS
Sleep apnea (Ap-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you 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 is a chronic (ongoing) condition that disrupts your sleep. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow. This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness. (2)
OSA - THE CAUSE
Obstructive sleep apnea happens when the muscles in the back of the throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate called the uvula, the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue.
When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in. You can't get enough air, which can lower the oxygen level in your blood. Your brain senses that you can't breathe, and briefly wakes you so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don't remember it.
You might snort, choke or gasp. This pattern can repeat itself 5 to 30 times or more each hour, all night. This makes it hard to reach the deep, restful phases of sleep. (1)
The symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas overlap, sometimes making it difficult to determine which type you have. The most common symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apneas include:
Episodes in which you stop breathing during sleep — which would be reported by another person
Gasping for air during sleep
Awakening with a dry mouth
Difficulty staying asleep, known as insomnia
Excessive daytime sleepiness, known as hypersomnia
Difficulty paying attention while awake