Apnea is a condition in which breathing stops for short periods during the night. There are two types of sleep apnea, Central and Obstructive. Obstructive sleep apnea is by far the most common type, being one of the most under-diagnosed diseases in America. It is estimated that about 20 million Americans suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea, or OSA. Snoring and OSA are frequently linked. Snoring is a symptom of sleep apnea. It has been estimated that 70-75% of people who snore have OSA in some degree.
Why should I be concerned?
During the night, the airway becomes blocked by the tongue and other soft tissues falling back into the airway. Each time this happens, the oxygen level in the brain decreases, and the brain activates the body’s self-defense network, called the Sympathetic Nervous System. When it is activated, the Sympathetic Nervous System increases both heart rate and blood pressure. Normally this would not be a problem, but it can occur hundreds of times throughout a single night’s sleep, increasing a person’s risk of serious disease or even death.
In addition, each time the blood oxygen level drops low enough, the body wakes up for just an instant. It happens so quickly that the sufferer doesn’t even know that they were aroused. This can happen hundreds of times in a night, leaving the person very sleep deprived.
People who are untreated for OSA are at greater risk of health problems such as Diabetes, Stroke, Heart Attack, High Blood Pressure, Obesity, and Depression. It has been estimated that each year there are 50,000 people who are involved in Motor Vehicle Accidents (MVA) directly related to OSA. The productivity ration in people who are untreated for OSA is at least 10% lower than normal, costing the U.S. Economy approximately $75 Billion each year.
Check out our symptoms page to find out if you may be suffering from sleep apnea.