- Sleep apnea is a condition in which people experience multiple episodes of apnea (stops breathing repeatedly, usually for at least 10 seconds) during sleep, which disturbs the sleep-wake cycle.
- Over an eight-hour sleep period, a person can experience hundreds of apneic episodes.
- People who have this condition are at increased risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Treatment for sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes, and the use of mechanical devices and oral appliances.
With sleep apnea, the body reacts to the interruption in breathing by forcing the body to inhale, which partially awakens the patient. The patient does not typically fully wake up, but apneic events are enough to disturb the sleep cycle, resulting in poor sleep quality. Sleep apnea is common, and an estimated 12 million Americans have the condition. Untreated sleep apnea increases a person's risk for developing and worsens the following conditions:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure),
- Arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms),
- Pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lung’s arteries),
- Heart failure (inadequate blood flow to the body),
- Acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), and
- Stroke (lack of blood supply to the brain).
- Obstructive sleep apnea - Tissue in the upper airway completely or partially collapses intermittently during sleep and blocks or obstructs the airway.
- Central sleep apnea - The brain fails to signal the respiratory muscles to breathe.
Both of these conditions can disturb your sleep and cause a drop in your oxygen levels.