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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Sleep Apnea: Causes and Treatments

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a medical condition in which normal breathing changes during sleep. It can be long pauses between breathing or shallow breathing. It can last just a few seconds or longer and can happen as many times as 30 or more in an hour.

Types of sleep apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea. The most common is obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway to the lungs becomes blocked during sleep, resulting in pauses in breathing or shallow breathing. When normal breathing returns, the patient usually reacts with a loud snorting or choking sound.

In addition, people with obstructive sleep apnea are deprived of the deep sleep necessary for complete rest and are usually tired during the day. Obstructive sleep apnea is more common among people who are obese or children with enlarged tonsils.

Central sleep apnea is a less common type of sleep apnea caused by the brain not sending signals necessary for the muscles to control breathing at night. The result is the same as obstructive sleep apnea; patients will stop breathing for brief periods of time. Central sleep apnea is more common among people with certain types of medical conditions.

Who is affected by sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can happen to anyone, although men are more prone to experience it than women. People who are obese, smoke, have diabetes and children with enlarged tonsils are also more likely to develop sleep apnea.

Health risks

Many people with sleep apnea are not even aware they have it. Sleep apnea can put people at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).


There are basically two primary areas of treatment. One involves mouthpieces or breathing machines that will keep air passages open at night. Surgery may be required in severe cases to remove excess tissue blocking air passages. The other area involves making life changes that will in some cases cause symptoms to disappear. They include:
  • Don't smoke.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol before bedtime.
  • Sleep on your side instead of your back.
  • Lose weight if you are obese, and keep your weight in a normal range.
DISCLAIMER: The content or opinions expressed on this web site are not to be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or medical practictioner before utilizing any suggestions on this web site.