Sleep apnea is a common, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder. People with sleep apnea experience pauses in their breathing or shallow breathing while they are asleep. These pauses can last anywhere from several seconds to a few minutes.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Central sleep apnea is when your brain doesn't "tell" the muscles that control breathing to breathe. As a result, you may stop breathing or not inhale deeply enough to get sufficient oxygen.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is when your airway collapses or becomes blocked, affecting your ability to breathe while sleeping. This is the most common type of sleep apnea.
Inspired sleep apnea treatments
Sleep specialists at Rush offer a full range of treatment options to address your sleep apnea and improve your sleep. This includes innovative options like Inspire therapy, an implantable device used to treat people with obstructive sleep apnea who cannot tolerate CPAP.
Sleep apnea signs
The following are common signs of sleep apnea:
- Loud, chronic (ongoing) snoring
- Jerking legs
- Pauses in breathing, followed by a snort or choking sound when breathing resumes
- Drowsiness during the day (sleep apnea is one of the top causes of excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Morning headaches
- Memory or concentration problems
- Waking up to go to the bathroom frequently during the night
- Depression, irritability, mood swings or personality changes
Sleep apnea causes
These are some reasons you may have a higher risk of sleep apnea:
- You are overweight or obese (around half of all people with sleep apnea are overweight)
- You are male
- You have a family history of sleep apnea
- You have small airways in your nose, throat or mouth
In addition to the above, these are some common causes of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA):
- Enlarged tonsils or tongue
- A collapsed soft palate
- A nasal blockage
How can I get help for sleep apnea?
It's important to see a doctor if you think you or a loved one may have sleep apnea. Because sleep apnea occurs only during sleep, many people with sleep apnea don't realize they have it, and it often goes undiagnosed.
If you have any of the above symptoms or notice them in a loved one, talk to your primary care doctor. He or she can do a physical and, if necessary, run tests to see whether you have sleep apnea or another health problem.