Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops for brief periods of time while a person is sleeping. It can last for 10-30 seconds, and may occur up to 20-30 times per hour. During one night of sleep, this can cause up to 400 episodes of interrupted breathing.

  • Causes

    There are three types of respiratory events:

    • Obstructive apnea—caused by a temporary, partial, or complete blockage of the airway
    • Central apnea—caused by a temporary failure to make an effort to breathe
    • Mixed apnea—a combination of the first two types

  • Definition

    Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops for brief periods of time while a person is sleeping. It can last for 10-30 seconds, and may occur up to 20-30 times per hour. During one night of sleep, this can cause up to 400 episodes of interrupted breathing.

    Blocked Airway
    IMAGE
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  • Diagnosis

    An overnight sleep study is used to help diagnose sleep apnea.

  • Prevention


    You may be able to prevent sleep apnea by maintaining a
    healthy weight
    . Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and sedatives, which may contribute to airway obstruction.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chances of developing sleep apnea include:

    • Sex: male
    • Overweight
    • Large neck circumference
    • Age: middle to older age
    • Family history of apnea

    • Structural abnormalities of the nose, throat, or other part of the respiratory tract. Examples include:

      • Polyps
      • Severely enlarged tonsils
      • Deviated nasal septum
    • Hypothyroidism
    • Medicines: sedatives and sleeping aids
    • Alcohol consumption
    • Smoking

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms may include:

    • Fatigue and sleepiness during waking hours
    • Loud snoring
    • Breathing that stops during the night that—as noticed by a bed partner
    • Repeated waking at night
    • Unrefreshing sleep
    • Morning headaches
    • Poor concentration or problems with memory
    • Irritability or short temper

    People with chronic, untreated sleep apnea may be at risk for:

    • Motor vehicle accidents
    • Depression
    • Hypertension
    • Heart disease

  • Treatment

    There are a number of treatment options for sleep apnea, including: