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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 1,2 – in obese people that number is 77% 3 – and you may not know you have it.

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition where the pharyngeal muscles in the back and sides of your throat relax so much during the sleep that the breathing stops for some seconds. When this happens, the brain notices a lack of oxygen in blood, wakes you up just enough to tense the muscles and take a breath. Then you fall into a deeper sleep again and the cycle continues – usually without you even noticing.

Early detection of sleep apnea means that it can be treated before it damages your health, relationship or work performance.

The end result of sleep apnea is that you may suffer from a lack of sleep and oxygen and wake up exhausted. Your partner may also complain about your snoring. Some sleep apnea sufferers find themselves falling asleep at work or while driving.

There are 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 initialize the circle of breath
  • Complex sleep apnea where obstructive and central sleep apnea occur together
The occasional  stop of breathing is normal.

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.