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Sleep Apnea

Helping You Get Some Rest

Do you snore? Do you often wake from a night’s sleep and still feel tired? Have you noticed that you are often drowsy or irritable during the day? You might be suffering from sleep apnea, a condition that affects over 20 million Americans. If left untreated, this common disorder can leave patients very ill. It can also be life-threatening.

What is it?

What happens during an episode of sleep apnea?
When a person suffers from sleep apnea, snoring is usually a symptom, but the real concern arises when snoring stops and the sleeper stops breathing. The body reacts to the imbalance of oxygen and carbon dioxide, wakes the sleeper – even though they are often not aware of waking – and breathing starts again with a gasp. This pattern of snoring, breath cessation, waking, and gasping happens over and over again through the night.

Is all snoring sleep apnea?
Snoring does often accompany sleep apnea, but just because you snore does not mean you have sleep apnea. Snoring is simply a loud sound that you make during breathing while asleep if there is any obstruction in your airway.

Causes of obstructive sleep apnea
When you have obstructive sleep apnea, your throat collapses during sleep, blocking the airway and preventing air from getting to the lungs. Generally, your throat muscles keep the throat and airway open.

Primary causes and risk factors of obstructive sleep apnea:

  • Being overweight or obese (although 50% of people with sleep apnea are not obese)
  • Large tonsils or adenoids
  • Other distinctive physical attributes (deviated septum, shape of head and neck, receding chin, enlarged tongue)
  • Nasal congestion or blockage (from cold, sinusitis, allergies, smoking, etc.)
  • Throat muscles and tongue relax more than normal during sleep (possibly due to alcohol or sedatives or age)
  • Obstructive sleep apnea does seem to run in families which may be a result of anatomic abnormalities or medical conditions that are genetic.

Who does it affect?

Surprisingly, 90% of people who have sleep apnea don’t know that they have it! Sleep breathing disorders can affect anyone: children, adolescents and adults. In spite of choking or gasping for air sometimes hundreds of times a night, you may not have any recollection of it. Your sleep partner is usually the first person to notice.

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