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Sleep DisordersWhat is Sleep Apnea?

There are three different types of apnea:

  • Obstructive
  • Central
  • Mixed (a combination of obstructive and central)


Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This type of apnea is the most common.  Usually the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes the airway so that a person stops breathing (apnea event).  This occurs repeatedly during sleep, as frequently as a hundred times an hour and often for a minute or longer.

With each apnea, the brain receives a signal to arouse the person from sleep in order to resume breathing, but consequently sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality.

People with untreated sleep apnea are generally not even aware of the awakenings but only of being sleepy during the day. They may, however, realize that they snore or gasp for air during sleep. Loud snoring, punctuated with periods of silence (the apneas), is typical but is not always present, especially in children.

 

 Central Sleep Apnea

In central sleep apnea, breathing is disrupted regularly during sleep because of the way the brain functions. It is not that you cannot breathe (which is true in obstructive sleep apnea); rather, you do not try to breathe at all. The brain does not tell your muscles to breathe. This type of sleep apnea is usually associated with serious illness, especially an illness in which the lower brainstem -- which controls breathing -- is affected.  Unlike Obstructive Sleep Apnea, chronic snoring is not necessarily present, although many cases of central sleep apnea are diagnosed in conjunction with a diagnosis of OSA (called Mixed or Complex Sleep Apnea)

 

Clinical Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Most Common Symptoms

  • Daytime Sleepiness/Fatigue
  • Chronic Snoring
  • Choking/Gasping for Breath During Sleep
  • Fragmented and Unrefreshed Sleep


Related Symptoms

  • Morning Headaches
  • Learning and Memory Difficulties
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Personality Change
  • Irritability
  • Sexual Dysfunction
  • Depression

 

Health Implications

Research continues to provide evidence of a link between Sleep Apnea and a growing number of long-term health issues.

Cancer

  • 5X greater mortality risk


Cardiovascular

  • Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
  • Cardiac Arrythmias
  • Pulmonary Hypertension
  • Stroke


Metabolic

  • Diabetes
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Dyslipidemia


Other

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents
  • On the Job Accidents
  • Increased Healthcare Utilization