What is Sleep Apnea?
Sleep apnea can be caused by either complete obstruction of the airway (obstructive apnea) or partial obstruction (obstructive hypopnea-hypopnea is slow, shallow breathing), both of which can wake one up. There are three types of sleep apnea – obstructive, central and mixed. Of these obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common. The site of the obstruction in most patients is the soft palate, extending to the region at the base of the tongue. There are no rigid structures, such as cartilage or bone, in this area to hold the airway open.
During the day, the muscles in the region keep the passages wide open. But as a person with OSA falls asleep, these muscles relax to a point where the airway collapses and becomes obstructed. When the airway closes, breathing stops, and the sleeper awakens to open the airway. The arousal from sleep usually last only a few minutes, but brief arousal disrupt continuous sleep and prevent the person from reaching the deep stages of slumber, such as rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which the body needs in order to rest and replenish its strength. Once normal breathing is restored, the person falls asleep only to repeat the cycle throughout the night.
What are the risks if left unattended?
Untreated sleep apnea can increase the chance of having high blood pressure and even a heart attack or stroke. Untreated sleep apnea can also increase the risk of diabetes and the risk for work related accidents. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that 38,000 cardiovascular deaths due to sleep apnea occur each year.
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What are the signs of Sleep Apnea?
- Loud snoring
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Fighting sleepiness during the day (even while at work or while driving)
- Morning headaches
- Memory Loss
- Feeling irritable
- Not being able to concentrate on your work
- Mood swings or personality changes; perhaps feeling depressed
- Frequent urination at night
- Sexual dysfunction
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Fisher & Paykel
Fisher & Paykel
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