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).
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- 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.