Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening medical disorder that causes the patient’s body to stop breathing during sleep. The muscles in the patient’s throat relaxes and the tongue may fall back and block the airway as the patients sleep, reducing the amount of oxygen delivered to all of the patient’s organs including the patient’s heart and brain. People with sleep apnea may snore loudly and stop breathing for short periods of time. The breathing pauses from sleep cause the patient’s body to briefly wake while the patient remains unaware. This can happen hundreds of times per night.
In addition to snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep apnea can cause memory loss, morning headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive and impaired concentration. When left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to hypertension, stroke, diabetes, heart attack and sudden death during sleep.
Sleep apnea patients are often older, obese and have thick necks – but it’s important to note that men and women of any age or body type can have sleep apnea. The sleep disorder progressively worsens with age and weight gain.
The vast major of sleep related breathing cases go undiagnosed and untreated. An Institute of Medicine report found that an estimated 50-70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Excessive daytime sleepiness alone is costly and dangerous – studies show excessive daytime sleepiness costs the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity and nearly 1 of every 5 car accidents causing serious injury are associated with excessive daytime sleepiness.
Fast facts that you need to know
Indicators and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Loud and chronic snoring
- Choking or gasping during sleep
- Chronic fatigue and tiredness
- Daytime sleepiness
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Morning headaches
- Restless or fitful sleep
- Insomnia or waking up frequently
- Going to the bathroom frequently during the night
- Waking up feeling out of breath
- Forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
- Moodiness, irritability or depression