Sleep Apnea

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If you have sleep apnea, you stop and start breathing repeatedly while you sleep. This causes drops in your body’s oxygen levels and frequent sleep disruptions, both of which can affect the quality of your sleep.

There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. A third type, complex sleep apnea, involves having symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea involves a partial or total blockage of airflow to your lungs while you sleep. The muscles of your tongue and/or trachea (the tube that brings air from your nose and mouth to your lungs) relax while you sleep. In people with obstructive sleep apnea, these muscles relax too much, causing the airway to collapse many times during sleep.

Most people with obstructive sleep apnea snore, and about 25% of patients with this condition have excessive daytime sleepiness. Other symptoms you may experience if you have obstructive sleep apnea include:

  • Attention or memory problems
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Headaches after waking up
  • Heartburn at night
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Waking at night

In addition, obstructive sleep apnea may worsen many other health conditions, such as:

About 70% of people with obstructive sleep apnea also have obesity, which can place added pressure on the tissues of the throat and neck. The remaining 30% of patients have blockages caused by airway abnormalities, such as larger-than-normal tonsils or a smaller-than-normal inner throat.

Central Sleep Apnea

Unlike obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea isn’t the result of a physical blockage in the airway. If you have central sleep apnea, your brain doesn’t send the signals needed to keep your respiratory system breathing while you sleep.

Central sleep apnea is more common in patients who have heart failure, as well as those who take narcotics or other sedative medications. Some patients on positive airway pressure (PAP) treatment for obstructive sleep apnea may also develop central sleep apnea.

You can lower your risk for central sleep apnea by talking to your doctor about alternatives to any sedative medications you take and avoiding sleeping on your back.

Sleep Apnea Treatments: Freedom From Gear

Watch Dr. Jonathan Lee and Dr. Daniel Plotsky discuss Inspire.

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