What Is Sleep Apnea?

whatissleepapneaSleep apnea is an intermittent interruption of breathing during the night’s sleep. It can happen 30 or 50 times an hour and cause a very disrupted night’s sleep. The result is excessive daytime sleepiness. Because it happens at night it is often unrecognized both by the sufferers and their doctors. It can be a very serious condition and is associated with the development of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and depression and anxiety. In children it can be associated with poor school performance and in some cases attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It is very common and may affect up to 30% of the population.

Sleep apnea results from an obstruction of the upper breathing passages during sleep. When we breathe, air comes in through the nose and mouth and travels through relatively small passages in the back of the nose, the back of the throat, down to the deep part of the throat and finally into the lungs. Air enters the lungs through the voice box (larynx). Any obstruction or narrowing along this path can lead to an obstruction. The most common cause for obstruction or narrowing; is being overweight or obese. This is because fat accumulates in the neck and around the throat –narrowing the airway.

Sleep apnea causes excessive daytime fatigue but it also contributes to the development of many serious diseases including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, anxiety, depression, memory loss, and impotence.

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