What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The "apnea" in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway open, despite efforts to breathe. 

Sleep apnea is witnessed when you hear a person who snores throughout the night, stop snoring, appear to hold their breath, gasp and then take a deep breath.  What is really happening is that this person's airway is actually completely closed.  Their body recognizes the extreme distress and briefly awakens the person.  Without the person's knowledge, this can happen hundreds of times each night, keeping the person from getting the sleep needed for good health and to feel refreshed the next day. Click here to watch a video abut sleep apnea.

If I snore, Do I Have Sleep Apnea?

Snoring is one common symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Since people with sleep apnea tend to be sleep deprived, they may also suffer from a wide range of other symptoms such as:

  • difficulty concentrating
  • depression
  • headaches
  • irritability
  • sexual dysfunction
  • learning and memory difficulties
  • falling asleep while at work, on the phone, or driving.

The only way to know for sure if snoring is a symptom of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, is to have a sleep test. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to many other health risks.

How do I Know if it's Sleep Apnea?

The strongest indicators of Sleep Apnea are as follows and should be evaluated by a health professional.

  • chronic snoring
  • excessive daytime sleepiness
  • waking up gasping or choking
  • brief breathing stoppages while sleeping

Those with sleep apnea generally complain of feeling tired all the time regardless of how much sleep they get. They often speak of how well or how long they sleep not realizing the poor quality of their sleep. Some may even feel good in the morning but by mid-morning or afternoon are already in need of a nap. Because many live with tiredness for years they tend to believe this state is normal or attributable to other issues such as age. It's important to understand that quality sleep of adequate length will result in energy-filled days.

What are the Health Risks of Sleep Apnea?

Left untreated, symptoms of sleep apnea can lead to many other problems. Your body needs rest and with sleep apnea you are not getting the proper amount of rest.  Your body is also being deprived of desperately needed oxygen throughout the night.  It is no surprise that serious health problems such as the following may arise - and the list is growing.