Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops for brief periods of time while a person is sleeping. It can last for 10-30 seconds, and may occur up to 20-30 times per hour. During 1 night of sleep, this can cause up to 400 episodes of interrupted breathing.
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There are three types of respiratory events:
Sleep apnea is more common in men and in adults over 40 years of age.
Factors that increase your chances of developing sleep apnea include:
Symptoms may include:
People with chronic, untreated sleep apnea may be at risk for:
An overnight sleep study is used to help diagnose sleep apnea.
This test helps detect the presence and severity of sleep apnea. During sleep, it measures your:
There are a number of treatment options for sleep apnea, including:
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is done by wearing a mask over your nose and/or mouth during sleep. An air blower forces enough constant and continuous air through your air passages to prevent the tissues from collapsing and blocking the airway.
Oral appliances that help keep the tongue or jaw in a more forward position may help those with mild to moderate sleep apnea. They can also be used for those with severe obstructive sleep apnea who cannot use CPAP therapy or have tried it without success.
In some cases, surgery may be advised. It is most often helpful in children.
Types of surgery that may be done to treat severe cases of sleep apnea include:
Bariatric surgery may help with weight loss in some people who are obese . This surgery may reduce many of the complications that are related to obesity, including sleep apnea.
Only used in central apnea, acetazolamide may help improve the ability to regulate breathing.
Supplemental oxygen may be given if blood levels of oxygen fall too low during sleep, even after opening the airway.
You may be able to prevent sleep apnea by maintaining a healthy weight . Avoid alcohol, nicotine, and sedatives, which may contribute to airway obstruction.
American Sleep Apnea Association
National Sleep Foundation
Canadian Lung Association
Canadian Sleep Society
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Last reviewed January 2015 by Adrienne Carmack, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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