Sleep Apnea is a chronic disorder in which one repeatedly stops breathing during the night. Apnea literally means “no breath.” These events last 10 seconds or longer, and may occur hundreds of times during a night.
Sleep Apnea occurs when the upper airway is obstructed or collapses for a number of reasons. Excessive weight and too much tissue in the upper airway are major causes. Loss of muscle tone due to aging, or during the muscle relaxation found in dream, may contribute. It may occur more commonly when someone sleeps on their back or after alcohol use. Additionally, Apnea may sometimes occur because the brain forgets to stimulate breathing.
There are some other symptoms related to Sleep Apnea:
Loud, chronic snoring
Choking or gasping during sleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Memory or learning problems
Changes in mood, including depression
Dry throat or mouth upon awakening
Important Consequences of Sleep Apnea
This disorder can have major health consequences and can be life threatening. Excessive daytime sleepiness may cause you to fall asleep while driving. Moreover, those affected may have increased risk of:
Stroke or transient ischemic attacks (transient ischemic is a mini stroke which is a reversible stroke that causes temporary neurological symptoms and then a relatively quick recovery without permanent brain damage or long-term disability). Changes in blood flow during apneas may affect the risk for stroke.
Coronary heart disease (Coronary heart disease (CHD) is when your coronary arteries (the arteries that supply your heart muscle with oxygen-rich blood) become narrowed by a gradual build-up of fatty material within their walls.