Sleep Apnea, meaning “without breath” in Greek, is when breathing stops for 10 seconds or more while sleeping.
Signs of Sleep Apnea
- Snoring that may disrupt the sleep of others
- Waking up gasping, coughing or choking
- Waking up with a noticeably increased heartbeat
- Waking up with a headache
- Waking up tired after a full night’s sleep
- Feeling tired or falling asleep during the day
- Problems with memory or concentration
- Feeling irritable or short-tempered
- Weight gain or inability to lose weight
- Acid Reflux in adults
- AD/HD in children
- Bed-wetting in children
Left untreated, sleep apnea increases the likelihood of illness or injury. It has been linked to obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and even death.
Serious and life-threatening problems start when sleepers begin experiencing apneas (breathing stops) and hypopneas (breathing is shallow due to an obstruction). When the tongue and muscles in the back of the throat relax during sleep, the lower jaw falls back towards the throat, blocking the airway and the sleeper’s breathing.
Apneas can last from 10 seconds to a minute or longer and can occur hundreds of times per night.
During an apnea, the body’s oxygen level drops which in turn causes blood pressure to rise. The heart is forced to beat faster, which increases the pulse rate. The brain may cause the arms, legs or whole body to jerk in an attempt to wake the sleeper to resume breathing. The silence may end with a loud snort, cough or gasp. This causes the sleeper to wake briefly and begin breathing. Once asleep again, the muscles relax and the process repeats itself.