Home / Understanding Sleep Apnea

 

The word “apnea” means “without breath.” Sleep apnea involves the involuntary stoppage of breath during sleep, caused by a blockage of the airway leading to the lungs. These blockages are created when the tongue relaxes falls to the back of the throat, or when soft tissues of the palate and throat relax and create a narrowed or blocked opening.

When the airway becomes blocked, the flow of fresh air to the lungs stops, robbing the body of vital oxygen replenishment, and leading to a buildup of carbon dioxide in the lungs. As oxygen levels continues to drop, the body’s emergency response reflexes kick in, releasing stress hormones that cause the sleeper to wake momentarily and gasp for air.

These pauses in breath can last for up to a minute, and the pause-gasp cycles may be repeated dozens to hundreds of times each night. But, because the awakenings and air gasps of OSA are triggered by the subconscious nervous system and happen quickly, the sleeper usually doesn’t recall these incidents, and may think they are sleeping soundly through the night.

The poor sleep quality caused by OSA can lead to morning headaches, daytime sleepiness and depression. The long-term health consequences can be far more severe, as OSA not only robs the body of the regenerative properties of sound sleep, but also creates ongoing stress on the heart and other systems.

Among the health problems that may be caused or made worse by OSA are:
Related Conditions:

  • Heart Disease and Heart Failure
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • GERD (Reflux Disease)
  • Atherosclerosis

OSA is also suspected to increase the risks of developing a number of forms of cancer.

The health consequences of untreated OSA can be severe, but with treatment, the symptoms can be significantly reduced or eliminated. For this reason, it’s important that you ore anyone who know who is showing signs of OSA should seek help as soon as possible, and begin the journey toward improved health and sleep.

 
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