sleep apnea diagram

What is Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. Each pause in breathing is called apnea – literally meaning “no breath” – and can last several seconds to a minute. When breathing is irregular, carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream, triggering the brain to wake the sleeping person and resume breathing.

Over 20 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, and it’s estimated that over 80 percent of moderate and severe cases are undiagnosed.

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Did you know, there are 4 stages of sleep?

OSA will interrupt your sleep cycle and cause common signs and symptoms.

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NREM Stage 1

  • Transition period between wakefulness and sleep
  • Lasts around 5-10 minutes
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NREM Stage 2

  • Body temperature drops and heart rate begins to slow
  • Brain begins to produce sleep spindles
  • Lasts about 20 minutes
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NREM Stage 3

  • Muscles relax
  • Blood pressure and breathing rate drop
  • Deepest sleep occurs
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REM Sleep

  • Brain becomes more active
  • Body becomes relaxed and immobilized
  • Dreams occur
  • Eyes move rapidly

Common Signs and Symptoms of OSA

Sleep apnea can have serious life-shortening consequences if left untreated, including:

  • Snoring
  • Observed episodes of stopped breathing during sleep
  • Waking with a choking or gasping sensation
  • Restless sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Waking up with a dry or sore throat
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Sleepiness when driving
  • Difficulty concentrating

Risk Factors

Anyone can develop OSA, but there are certain risk factors that put you at higher potential for OSA including:

  • Being overweight
  • Large neck size/constricted airway
  • High blood pressure
  • Nasal congestion
  • Males- however, post-menopausal women have equal prevalence
  • Increased Age
  • Family History of Sleep Apnea

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Sleep Apnea Can Affect Your Overall Health

OSA is a chronic, lifelong medical condition that can affect your sleep, health, and quality of life. It has been linked to hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, work and driving related accidents, and stroke. It can place unnecessary strain on relationships between bed partners, family and in the workplace.