What Is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder where you stop breathing while you are asleep. These interruptions in breathing can last from a few seconds to minutes, and they may happen 30 times or more in an hour. Breathing often starts again with a loud snort or choking sound. Each time you stop breathing your sleep is interrupted, preventing you from getting prolonged, sound sleep, and resulting in poor quality sleep throughout the night. Sleep apnea causes you to be tired during the day, even when you may think you have had a complete night’s rest. In fact, sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness, and can cause or is associated with many other health problems.

Signs & Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea

If you have any of these issues or characteristics, you should be screened for obstructive sleep apnea.

  • Excessive snoring and/or nighttime gasping, choking or coughing (these symptoms may be noticed by your spouse or significant other)
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness, which may result in falling asleep at work, while driving, at the movies and so on
  • Lack of energy, including being unable to read or watch television without falling asleep
  • Insomnia (especially in women)
  • Hypertension
  • Morning headaches
  • Frequent nocturnal urination
  • Depression
  • Gastroesophageal reflux
  • Obesity
  • Large neck size ( > 17” men; > 16” women)
  • Upper airway or facial abnormalities

Most Sleep Apnea Sufferers Are Undiagnosed

  • Approximately 43 million people in the United States suffer from sleep-disordered breathing, most commonly in the form of obstructive sleep apnea
  • 1 in 5 adults has mild obstructive sleep apnea and 1 in 15 has moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea
  • The American Sleep Apnea Association estimates that 85% of moderate and severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea go undiagnosed – and that figure may be as high as 93% in women

Harmful Effects of Sleep Apnea

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