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- Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder. This causes breathing to stop and restart repeatedly during sleep.
There are several types of sleep apnea, but the most common is obstructive sleep apnea. This type of apnea occurs when the muscles in your throat relax temporarily and block your airways while you sleep. Snoring is a noticeable sign of obstructive sleep apnea.
Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea are available. Treatment involves using a device that uses positive pressure to keep your airways open while you sleep. Another option is a mouthpiece that allows you to push your lower jaw forward while you sleep. In some cases, surgery may also be an option.
The signs and symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea are:
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Loud snoring
- Observed episodes of respiratory failure during sleep
- Abrupt awakening accompanied by wheezing or suffocation
- Wake up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headache
- Difficulty concentrating during the day
- Experience mood swings like depression or irritability
- Arterial hypertension
- Sweat at night
- Decreased libido
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. These muscles support structures such as the back of the palate (soft palate), the triangular piece of tissue that hangs from the soft palate (uvula), tonsils, and tongue.
As the muscles relax, your airways narrow or narrow when you breathe in, and breathing may be inadequate for 10 seconds or more. This can lower the amount of oxygen in your blood and cause carbon dioxide to build up.
Your brain will recognize this change in breathing and wake you up briefly so that you can reopen your airways. This awakening is usually so brief that you don’t remember it.
You may wake up with shortness of breath, which resolves quickly within a deep breath or two. They can sniff, choke, or gasp for air.
This pattern can be repeated five to 30 times or more per hour throughout the night. These disruptions affect your ability to get the deep, restful phases of sleep you want, and you will likely feel drowsy during your waking hours.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may not know that their sleep has been interrupted. In fact, many people with this type of sleep apnea think they slept well.
Anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea. However, there are certain factors that put you at increased risk, including:
Obesity. Most, but not all, people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight. Deposits of fat around the upper airways can affect breathing. Obesity-related conditions such as hypothyroidism and polycystic ovary syndrome can also lead to obstructive sleep apnea.
However, not all people with obstructive sleep apnea are overweight and vice versa. Thin people can also develop the disorder.
Narrowed airways. You can inherit narrow airways, of course. Or your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airways.
High blood pressure (hypertension). Obstructive sleep apnea is relatively common in people with high blood pressure.