Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a cessation of breathing during sleep for intermittent periods of 10 to 60 seconds, that can disturb an individual’s sleep hundreds of time throughout the night without their knowledge.

As many as 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. It is more common among men, those who snore, are overweight, have high blood pressure or physical abnormalities in their upper airway. Sleep apnea requires treatment, as it lowers blood-oxygen levels, puts a strain on the heart and has been associated with high blood pressure, stroke, headaches, depression, daytime sleepiness and a higher likelihood of diabetes and being involved in a car accident.

There are 2 main types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is the most common type of apnea and occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, causing an individual to stop breathing or take shallow breaths while sleeping.

The airway blockage can be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • Excess weight
  • Alcohol consumption before sleep
  • An unusually large tongue
  • Large tonsils
  • The position of the jaw in proportion to the air passage
  • Excess tissue in the upper throat or nasal passages

Symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring followed by a period of silence
  • Night sweats
  • Waking up during the night gasping or choking
  • Waking up unrefreshed or with a headache
  • Sleepiness or trouble staying awake during the day
  • Irritability due to fatigue

Central Sleep Apnea

This form of sleep apnea is a result of breathing pauses during sleep. It is most often associated with both brain problems (for example, stroke) and heart problems.