Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep. This means the brain – and the rest of the body—may not get enough oxygen.
- There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
- Central sleep apnea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breath, due to instability in the respiratory control center.
- If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
In addition, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities such as work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic under achievement in children and adolescents.
- Common sleep apnea symptoms include:
- Waking up with a sore or very dry throat
- Loud snoring
- Occasionally waking up with a choking or gasping sensation
- Sleepiness or lack of energy during the day
- Sleepiness while driving
- Morning headaches
- Restless sleep
- Forgetfulness, mood changes, and decreased interest in sex
- Recurrent awakenings or insomnia