Sleep apnea is a common yet underdiagnosed sleep disorder that affects millions of people worldwide. It is characterized by brief pauses in breathing during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur multiple times throughout the night. As a result, people with sleep apnea often wake up feeling tired and unrefreshed.
There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and central sleep apnea (CSA). OSA is the most common type and is caused by a blockage in the upper airway, such as the tongue or soft tissue in the throat. CSA is caused by a disruption in the signals sent from the brain to the muscles that control breathing.
Sleep apnea is more common in adults, although it can occur in children as well. Risk factors for sleep apnea include being overweight, having a narrow airway, smoking, and having a family history of the disorder.
The most common symptom of sleep apnea is loud snoring. Other symptoms include daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, difficulty concentrating, and waking up frequently during the night. If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health complications, such as high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure.
Diagnosis of sleep apnea usually involves a physical exam and a sleep study. Treatment options may include lifestyle changes, such as weight loss, avoiding alcohol and smoking, and sleeping on your side. In more severe cases, a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine may be needed to help keep the airway open during sleep.
Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can have a significant impact on quality of life. It is important to be aware of the signs and symptoms and to seek medical attention if you think you may be affected. With proper treatment, it is possible to manage sleep apnea and improve your overall health and wellbeing.