Sleep apnea is a common disorder that can be serious. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow. Each pause in breathing typically lasts 10 to 20 seconds or more. These pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour.
The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA. That means you are unable to get enough air through your mouth and nose into your lungs. When that happens, the amount of oxygen in your blood may drop. Normal breathing resumes with a snort or choking sound.
People with sleep apnea often snore loudly; however, not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.
When your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, you can be drowsy during the day. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for car crashes, work-related accidents and other medical problems including cardiovascular disease, psychiatric disorders and cognitive dysfunction. People with obstructive sleep apnea also have a three-fold greater risk of a car accident than the general population. If you have any of the following symptoms, it is important to get an evaluation and treatment:
- Have a hard time falling or staying asleep?
- Snore loudly or wake up gasping for air?
- Wake up feeling tired or feel very sleepy during the day, even though you had enough sleep?
- Awaken with headaches?
- Have difficulty with memory?