What is Sleep Apnea?

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition marked by abnormal breathing during sleep. It is most commonly caused by anatomical flaws. The size and positioning of a person's neck, jaw, tongue, tonsils, and the tissue structure near the back of the throat can directly affect airflow. People with sleep apnea have multiple extended pauses in breath when they sleep. These temporary breathing lapses cause lower-quality sleep and affect the body's supply of oxygen, leading to potentially serious health consequences.

Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders in the United States. Studies have shown that 1 in 5 adults have mild obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can also affect children! It's estimated that 1 in 10 children snore regularly, and 1- 4% of children suffer from sleep apnea- many of them being between 2 and 8 years old.

Types of Sleep Apnea:

Though obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common type of sleep apnea, it's not the only type. With OSA, your airway is physically obstructed while you sleep, causing you to stop breathing and wake up.

Central sleep apnea (CSA) is a rare type of sleep apnea that's caused by difficulty in communication between your brain and your body.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

Your risk for sleep apnea increases with age and the risk is higher for males, but there are a variety of other factors that can contribute to the condition. These can include:

  • Excess weight/large neck circumference
  • Family history
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol use
  • Small jaws
  • Premolar extractions
  • Headgear

The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is not a condition to be taken lightly because it can lead to serious health complications. Some of these complications include:

  • Daytime fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased risk of motor vehicle and workplace accidents
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Behavioral problems
  • Poor academic performance
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Complications with medications and surgery
  • Sleep-deprived partners
  • Changes in metabolism
  • Erectile dysfunction

More dangerous health conditions include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Lack of oxygen to the brain
  • Heart attacks
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Liver problems
  • Possibility of sudden death

22 million Americans

suffer from sleep apnea, with 80% of the cases being undiagnosed moderate and severe sleep apnea.