What Is sleep apnea?

The Greek word "apnea" literally means "without breath." There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed. Sleep apnea is an involuntary cessation of breathing that occurs while the patient is asleep. The most common of the three is obstructive sleep apnea, often called OSA for short. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing recurrently during their sleep.

Left untreated, sleep apnea can have serious life threatening consequences: high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, automobile accidents caused by falling asleep at the wheel, diabetes, depression, and other ailments.

Sleep apnea is seen more frequently among men than among women. A chief symptom is extremely loud snoring, often so loud that bed partners find it intolerable to sleep in the same room. Severe mood swings, obesity, along with persistent daytime sleepiness, bouts of awakening out of breath through the night, and dry mouth or a headache upon wakening. Only a home sleep study or a study done in a sleep laboratory can show the severity or conclusively that sleep apnea is present.
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