Sleep apnea is a potentially serious condition where breathing stops and starts repeatedly as you sleep. You may experience shallow breathing or snore loudly. While you may not be aware of these symptoms of sleep apnea, you probably notice sleepiness and fatigue during the day, even after a full night’s sleep.
Sleep Apnea Treatment
Sleep apnea is a breathing problem that occurs during sleep. Breathing can pause for a few seconds or a couple of minutes. Pauses can occur 30 times or more each hour. Breathing often resumes with a choking sound or loud snort. Shallow or paused breathing prevents you from falling into a deep sleep. You doze lightly instead, resulting in poor quality sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Shallow and paused breathing prevents your lungs from filling with an adequate amount of air. This decreases the level of oxygen in your bloodstream. When your blood oxygen levels drop too low, your brain wakes you up, which tightens the muscles in your upper airway so you can breathe again. You gasp for air as the muscles tighten, causing you to snort as you wake up.
If you are like most people with this condition, you may have no idea you have a sleep disorder until a family member or bed partner notices that you stop breathing while you sleep or that you snore. You may notice, however, that you wake up feeling more tired than when you went to bed.
This type of apnea can cause poor sleep and excessive daytime sleepiness, but it can also have other health consequences. Frequent drops in blood oxygen and poor sleep quality can trigger the release of stress hormones that raise your heart rate and increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and more. Left untreated, this sleep disorder can help change how your body uses energy, increasing your risk for obesity and diabetes.
Types of sleep apnea
The three main types of sleep apnea are:
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common form of this sleep disorder. OSA occurs when your muscles relax as you fall asleep. Your tongue slides back against your soft palate, the flexible backmost portion of the roof of your mouth. This causes your soft palate and uvula, which is that bit of dangling flesh at the back of your throat, to block your windpipe and obstruct your breathing. Air must squeeze past the blockage, which causes snoring.
Central sleep apnea happens when your brain does not send the right signals to the muscles that control breathing.
Complex syndrome occurs when you have both obstructive and central sleep apnea.
Sleep Apnea Test
Our sleep specialists at O2 Pulmonary & Sleep Group help diagnose sleep apnea through overnight tests that monitor your breathing patterns and your blood oxygen levels while you sleep. If you have this sleep disorder, your blood oxygen levels drop while you are asleep and rise when you awaken. We also measure your heart, lung and brain activity, as well as your arm and leg movements.