Do you know someone who stops breathing several times an hour for the duration of several seconds to a minute or longer? If you do, you may know someone who suffers from sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which an individual either stops breathing many times during the night or has shallow breathing while he or she sleeps. Sometimes a person who has stopped breathing will give a noisy choking sound or snort when he or she resumes breathing again.
While individuals with sleep apnea may feel very tired during the day due to poor sleep quality, they often do not know they stop breathing during sleep. Rather, it is typically a family member, spouse, or partner who notices the shallow breathing or breathing pauses that occur during sleep.
Three types of sleep apnea exist:
Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when something either blocks the airway or the airway collapses during sleep, causing a person to stop breathing. This is the most common type of sleep apnea.
Central sleep apnea: Central sleep apnea occurs when a person's brain does not send the right signals or messages to the breathing muscles in the body. According to the National Institute of Health, snoring does not usually occur with central sleep apnea.
Mixed sleep apnea: In mixed sleep apnea, both obstructive and central sleep apnea are present and account for breathing difficulties during sleep.
If left untreated, sleep apnea may lead to any of the following, according to the National Institute of Health: irregular heartbeat, increases the risk for heart failure, increases the risk of suffering from diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, obesity, and/or stroke, and increases the likelihood of having a driving or work-related accident.
Fortunately, sleep apnea can be treated. I will discuss the treatment options for sleep apnea in my next post.