Obstructive Sleep Apnea
More than 18 million Americans—approximately one in twenty-five people—suffer from sleep apnea. In obstructive sleep apnea, a serious medical disorder, the sleeper’s breathing is repeatedly interrupted—for more than 10 seconds and sometimes up to a minute. These interruptions occur because the sleeper’s throat “collapses” and obstructs the airway. The definition of apnea is “lack of breath.” So “obstructive sleep apnea” occurs when a “lack of breath” occurs during sleep because of the collapsed throat obstructs the airway. The sleeper’s apneic breathing—the interruptions—can occur five-to-thirty times per hour, or more!
Left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can result in high blood pressure, heart attack, congestive heart failure, atrial fibrillation and stroke, and worsen diabetes.
Individuals with the following characteristics or symptoms are at high risk for obstructive sleep apnea:
- Men with a neck size of 17 inches or more
- Women with a neck size of 16 inches or more
- High blood pressure
- Age 65 or older
- Chronic snoring
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
Other symptoms include difficulty concentrating, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, depression, sexual dysfunction, learning and memory problems and falling asleep at the wheel or at work.
Sleep apnea can be life-threatening and is often under-diagnosed. If you think you or a loved one have sleep apnea, please consult a medical professional.