Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a condition in which a person stops breathing repeatedly during the night. Breathing stops because the airway collapses and prevents air from getting into the lungs.
Sleep patterns are then disrupted resulting in excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day.
Sleep apnea occurs when soft tissues in the back of the throat and neck relax so much that the airway gets narrow. The airway may even get blocked completely or partially so that air cannot get through.
Each time this temporary pause in breathing occurs, the body responds by waking up for a very short period of time. These arousals are usually so brief that a person does not remember waking up. Sometimes, the bed partner is the one who notices the pauses in breathing and then hears the gasping or choking sounds as breathing starts again. People who suffer from sleep apnea may stop breathing a hundred times every night.
Whether or not the person with sleep apnea realizes how much they are struggling to breathe at night, sleep apnea has very serious effects on the quality and restfulness of sleep and on the person’s health:
- 1 in 5 adults suffer from some form of sleep apnea.
- More than 1 in 2 people with type 2 diabetes have sleep apnea.
- 8 in 10 people who have sleep apnea have not been diagnosed.
- 4% of middle aged men and 2% of middle aged women have sleep apnea.
- Obstructive sleep apnea is as common as adult asthma.
- Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are 2-4 times more likely to develop complex arrhythmias than those without obstructive sleep apnea.
- Individuals diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are 2-3 times more likely to develop high blood pressure.
- The prevalence of sleep apnea in patients with heart failure is estimated to be 40-70%.
- Individuals who are diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea are more likely to suffer a stroke than those without obstructive sleep apnea.
- Type 2 diabetes is more prevalent in patients with obstructive sleep apnea independent of other risk factors.
- The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea is higher in the following ethnic groups:
- Hispanic women
- African Americans
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder. If you have sleep apnea, it is important to treat it so to prevent development of other serious health problems. Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, as well as a higher chance of traffic accidents and work injuries. Untreated sleep apnea can also cause relationship problems and depression, and has a direct impact on psychosocial skills and cognitive impairment.