People with Sleep Apnea stop breathing while they sleep, sometimes hundreds of times per night, and occasionally for a minute or longer. Sleep Apnea affects about 18 million people of all ages in the U.S. and ninety percent of people who have Sleep Apnea don’t know that they have it. Sleep Apnea takes three forms: obstructive, central and mixed.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), the most common form, occurs when the soft tissue at the back of the throat closes, and thus obstructs a person’s airway. In Central Sleep Apnea, the airway remains open; however, the brain does not send signals to the muscles involved in breathing. Central Sleep Apnea is very rare. Mixed Sleep Apnea combines aspects of the obstructive and central types of Sleep Apnea. A common warning sign of Sleep Apnea is snoring, especially snoring combined with gasps or lack of breathing (Apnea). Sleep Apnea can be diagnosed with a sleep study.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea does not allow for adequate deep sleep, where the human body gets its true rest. During the Apnea episodes, breathing is obstructed and therefore the oxygen levels drop.
The brain tries to correct this by bringing the patient to a lighter stage of sleep so that the muscles have more tone and open up the airway, thus increasing oxygenation. Sufferers of Obstructive Sleep Apnea cannot maintain deep sleep since they are awakened to a lighter stage of sleep throughout the night in order to resume proper breathing. Although most patients do not actually wake up during these Apnea episodes, less time is spent in deep sleep, thus disrupting and lowering the quality of a person’s rest. Obstructive Sleep Apnea can lead to a number of problems since poor sleep and recurrent/chronic low oxygen levels can lead to permanent organ damage. If left untreated, Obstructive Sleep Apnea can cause significant health issues such as high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, stroke, memory problems, weight gain, impotency, headaches, and daytime fatigue leading to job impairment and motor vehicle crashes.