Sleep Apnea

(Obstructive Apnea; Central Apnea; Mixed Apnea)

Definition

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.
Blocked Airway
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Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

There are three types of respiratory events:
  • Obstructive apnea—caused by a temporary, partial, or complete blockage of the airway
  • Central apnea—caused by a temporary failure to make an effort to breathe
  • Mixed apnea—a combination of the first 2 types

Risk Factors

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

Symptoms may include:
  • Fatigue and sleepiness during waking hours
  • Loud snoring
  • Breathing that stops during the night—as noticed by a bed partner
  • Repeated waking at night
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Morning headaches
  • Poor concentration or problems with memory
  • Irritability or short temper
People with chronic, untreated sleep apnea may be at risk for:

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