Sleep apnea is a serious disorder in which a person’s breathing repeatedly stops and starts while they sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which occurs when your airway becomes blocked during sleep. This blockage causes you to briefly stop breathing (apneic episodes) and then start again (respiratory effort). It’s estimated that more than 18 million Americans suffer from OSA, with the condition being present in up to 40% of men over 65 years old with an even higher incidence in people who are obese or have enlarged tonsils or enlarged adenoids. The symptoms of OSA include loud snoring, restless sleep, daytime tiredness, morning headaches and memory problems

What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a common disorder that affects breathing during sleep. It’s caused by a problem with the muscles in your throat, which can make it difficult to draw air into your lungs.

If left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious health problems like heart disease and high blood pressure. The most common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring and waking up with a dry mouth.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are three types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when airflow is blocked as the soft tissues in your throat collapse during sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea, a less common condition where the brain doesn’t signal the muscles to breathe with enough strength or consistency.
  • Complex sleep apnea, which is a combination of obstructive and central problems.

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

  • Snoring. If you or your bed partner hears a loud, consistent snoring sound when you sleep, it could be a sign of sleep apnea.
  • Trouble breathing while sleeping. You might wake up gasping for air or have to sit up in bed to breathe better, which can cause injury to the neck and spine if done repeatedly through the night.
  • Morning headaches and difficulty waking up in the morning could also be signs of sleep apnea; this is because during an episode of sleep apnea-related hypoxia (lower than normal oxygen levels), blood vessels constrict, increasing pressure on the brain and causing pain upon awakening.
  • Tiredness throughout the day is another symptom of untreated sleep apnea—especially when accompanied by trouble falling asleep at night due to daytime fatigue caused by insufficient daytime restorative periods needed for recovery from obstructive breathing events during sleep (OBEs) that may include loud snoring noises that interrupt normal respiration patterns leading one’s body into a state where it isn’t getting enough oxygen when inhaling each breath according with how many times per hour this occurs over time which leads into chronic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease eventually leading death unless treated early enough before becoming fatal

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

The main risk factors for sleep apnea are:

  • Obesity.
  • Smoking and alcohol use.
  • Family history of sleep apnea.
  • Snoring, particularly that which occurs with pauses in breathing (called snoring with “sleep-disordered breathing”).
  • Menopause (the stage of life for women when menstruation ceases). This happens to all women as they age but is more prevalent in those who have had children, have a higher body mass index (BMI), and/or experience irregular periods or hot flashes.

In addition, other factors may contribute to your risk of developing sleep apnea:

Diagnosing Sleep Apnea

Diagnosing sleep apnea is a multi-step process. Your doctor will first review your medical history and symptoms, then conduct a physical exam to check for signs of sleep apnea. If the diagnosis is uncertain, you may be referred for an overnight sleep study in a lab under supervision of a doctor or nurse.

The most accurate way to diagnose sleep apnea is by doing a polysomnogram (PSG), which measures brain waves, muscle tone, heart rhythm and oxygen levels during sleep; it also records airflow through your nose and mouth with sensors placed on your face. The PSG usually takes place at night while you are sleeping in hospital or at home with equipment attached to your body.

Treatments for Sleep Apnea

  • Medication: There are a number of drugs that can help with sleep apnea if you’re already taking them for another condition. For example, an asthma drug called theophylline has been shown to improve breathing during sleep in people with severe obstructive sleep apnea. Other drugs that have been shown to improve breathing during sleep include albuterol (a bronchodilator) and fluticasone propionate (a nasal steroid).
  • Surgery: Another option is surgery, which may be recommended if you continue to experience symptoms despite other treatments or when your case is more severe than usual. There are three types of surgeries used to treat obstructive sleep apnea:

Silent Nerve Stimulation

Pharyngeal Obliteration

Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) * Dental Devices: There are also several dental devices that can be used to treat mild-to-moderate cases of obstructive sleep apnea. * CPAP machines: A common treatment for moderate-to-severe cases of obstructive sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This machine provides a constant flow of air through a mask worn over your nose while you’re sleeping. The mask helps keep the airway open so that it doesn’t collapse when you’re asleep. * Breathing Exercises: These exercises involve practicing different ways to change how much air we take in and let out through our mouths and noses. Potential Complications Mild: You may find yourself waking up feeling tired or lacking energy due to lack of restful sleep. (Mod


Sleep apnea is a serious condition that can lead to a variety of health problems if left untreated. Fortunately, it can often be treated with a variety of methods.

If you have sleep apnea, you will stop breathing while sleeping at least 10 times an hour for more than 10 seconds at a time. This means that you are not getting enough oxygen when you sleep and are often waking up gasping for air in the middle of the night.

Sleep apnea can cause sleep deprivation that leaves people feeling tired throughout the day, which in turn increases their risk of heart attack or stroke by increasing blood pressure levels during daily activities such as driving or working out at the gym.


There are a lot of people who need to know about sleep apnea. It can be very dangerous for those who have it, and there are treatments available that can help them get more restful sleep. It may also be something that you have heard about but don’t know much about. In any case, now that you’ve read this article on what is sleep apnea? You should feel better equipped to understand what it means for your health.