Renew Sleep Solutions :: What is Sleep Apnea?

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Sleep apnea is a common form of sleep-disordered breathing that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep, preventing oxygen from reaching the brain. Episodes typically last between 10 to 20 seconds and can occur hundreds of times per night. Each time normal breathing is interrupted, the brain is depleted of oxygen. As a result, sufferers never feel rested and experience excessive daytime grogginess.

Sleep apnea is not a disease but a disorder that increases the risk of contracting other diseases and conditions. There are three types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common form of sleep apnea. Some estimates show 1 in 7 people in the U.S. are afflicted with some form of OSA. In OSA, the muscles around the throat and airway relax, causing the airway to collapse. Sometimes the tongue falls back and obstructs the airway. The brain can no longer receive oxygen and sends a signal to the muscles to open, often causing the person to wake up with a gasp or a snort. Most of the time, sufferers do not recall waking up during these episodes. This cycle repeats throughout the night, preventing a good night’s sleep.
Central Sleep Apnea is caused when the brain fails to properly signal the muscles to breathe. It is very uncommon, and snoring is generally not a symptom.
Complex Sleep Apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

We recommend you seek help to diagnose or rule out OSA if you experience more than one of the following symptoms:

  • Loud, frequent snoring
  • Uneven breathing – periods of silence followed by gasps or snorts
  • Frequent waking, sometimes with chest pain
  • Insomnia
  • Dry mouth or sore throat in the morning
  • Mood problems such as depression and irritability
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness that interferes with normal activities such as driving
  • Chronic exhaustion even after a full night’s sleep
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Been diagnosed with ADHD (in children and adults) – sometimes OSA is misdiagnosed as ADHD

Who Gets Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Anyone can develop OSA regardless of gender or age; even children can be afflicted. The most common risk factors include:

  • Excess weight, especially obesity – about half of all OSA sufferers are overweight
  • Male, although recent research has indicated that women’s risk increases to about the same level as men once they reach post-menopausal age
  • Over the age of 60
  • Smoking
  • Enlarged tonsils and adenoids, one of the most common factors for children with OSA, particularly overweight children
  • Having certain anatomical features such as a thick neck, narrowed airway, deviated spectrum or receding chin
  • Using alcohol, sedatives and tranquilizers, all of which relax the muscles in the airway
  • Having asthma, in adults and children, particularly if they are overweight
  • Allergies and chronic nasal congestion

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Dangerous?

Yes. The majority of people with OSA don’t even know they have it because it mimics symptoms of so many other disorders. It is particularly overlooked in women and children, whose symptoms may differ slightly from those of men. Untreated, OSA can contribute to or exacerbate a wide variety of illnesses and disorders, including but not limited to:

  • Cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure), heart failure, stroke, heart arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat), myocardial ischemia (decreased blood flow to the heart) and pulmonary arterial hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs)
  • Diabetes
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Higher risk of injury or death from car and other accidents
  • Cognitive impairments such as dementia, ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and other cognition/behavioral problems
  • Certain types of cancer
  • Brain damage

Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea Treatable?

Yes. OSA is very treatable, often with a combination of lifestyle changes and therapy. Additionally, people with OSA often suffer from underlying medical conditions that, once treated, may cause some OSA symptoms to subside.

Click here to read more about therapy from Renew Sleep.

How Do I Know If It’s Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Only a doctor or sleep specialist can confirm if you or a loved one is suffering from OSA. At your free in-person Renew Sleep consultation, you will receive an evaluation and, if applicable, be offered a home sleep test that measures sleep-disordered breathing.

Learn more about a Renew Sleep diagnosis here.