Sleep apnea is a common, yet serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing while you sleep. This occurs because your airway becomes repeatedly blocked, limiting the amount of air that can reach your lungs. This can lead to serious problems due to the reduced oxygen levels putting a strain on your heart and lungs.
At its worse, the lack of oxygen can cause the heart to beat in an irregular rhythm, which can be life-threatening. For some, sleep apnea can also lead to or aggravate serious health effects, including cardiovascular problems, depression, headaches, hypertension, and decreased quality of life.
Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repeated episodes of narrowing of the upper airways. Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea include obesity, older age, male gender, and certain craniofacial conditions such as Down’s syndrome.
The primary symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, irregular nocturnal breathing, and/or non-restorative sleep and daytime fatigue.
In addition, individuals who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea may complain of morning headaches, recent weight gain, morning dry mouth, insomnia, frequent night-time urination, moodiness, depression, and difficulty concentrating.
A diagnosis is made through conducting a sleep study (also known as a polysomnogram), which is an overnight test designed to identify problems with the quality of an individual’s sleep. By monitoring your breathing, brain waves, and oxygen levels, a diagnosis of sleep apnea can be made.
Once the test is completed, our sleep specialists will inform you on how many times per hour your airway narrows. If it is more than five times per hour, it is likely consistent with obstructive sleep apnea. An overnight sleep study will also be able to establish if you have a different type of sleep apnea such as central sleep apnea or mixed sleep apnea.
Learn about our treatment options for sleep apnea.
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