Apnea is a medical word for "not breathing." Sleep apnea is when your breathing slows or stops for a short time while you're sleeping and then restarts.
This happens over and over each time you sleep, often many times an hour. You wake up partway when your breathing stops. When you wake up, you start breathing again. Usually you don't remember waking up. However, it still breaks up a good night's sleep.
People with sleep apnea usually snore loudly at night and are very tired during the day
Doctors usually do a sleep study if they suspect sleep apnea
Doctors may treat you with a breathing machine connected to a mask (CPAP machine Apnea is a medical word for "not breathing." Sleep apnea is when your breathing slows or stops for a short time while you're sleeping and then restarts. This happens over and over each time... read more ), with a mouthpiece, or sometimes with surgery
If you're not treated, you have an increased risk of high blood pressure High Blood Pressure Each heart beat pushes blood through your arteries. Arteries are the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to your body. Blood pressure is the pressure of blood in your arteries. Without... read more , stroke Stroke A stroke is a sudden brain problem that happens when a blood vessel in your brain either gets blocked or breaks open and bleeds. Part of your brain stops getting blood. Brain tissue that doesn't... read more , and heart disease Overview of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) The heart is a muscle that pumps blood. Like all muscles, the heart needs a steady supply of blood to work. Blood that pumps through the heart doesn't feed the heart muscle. Instead the heart... read more
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It happens when your throat closes up when your muscles relax during sleep.
Your risk of having obstructive sleep apnea is higher if the back of your mouth and throat is narrow to begin with. This is more common if you:
Your body is more likely to be built this way if you:
Other risk factors for sleep apnea include:
You don't usually notice anything wrong while you're sleeping, but someone sleeping in your room probably does. That person may hear you:
Even though you don't notice anything while you sleep, you may feel bad during the day. You may:
Most adults who snore don't have obstructive sleep apnea. But if you have sleep apnea, you're likely to snore.
You don't get enough oxygen during the times you're not breathing. Because you start breathing again, this isn't enough to hurt you right away. However, after a while, the low oxygen levels can cause problems:
Increased risk of stroke Stroke A stroke is a sudden brain problem that happens when a blood vessel in your brain either gets blocked or breaks open and bleeds. Part of your brain stops getting blood. Brain tissue that doesn't... read more , heart attack Heart Attack A heart attack is when blood flow to part of your heart is suddenly blocked and some of your heart muscle dies. Doctors use the term myocardial infarction to refer to a heart attack. Myocardium... read more , and heart rhythm problems Overview of Abnormal Heart Rhythms Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through your body. Your heart rate is how fast your heart beats. Your heart should always have a regular, rhythmic beat, like the ticking of a clock.... read more
Sometimes, premature death
Your doctor will usually do a test while you're sleeping. The test is called polysomnography The most commonly reported sleep-related problems are insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness. Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up early, or a disturbance in... read more or a "sleep study."
You may have to go to a special sleep center for the sleep study. Sometimes your doctor will have you do a simpler version at home. In both cases, you'll wear monitors on your head, body, and hand while you sleep. The monitors track your:
These tests don't hurt, but you may find it hard to sleep with all the monitors. Technicians watch you on a video monitor.
Doctors may do other tests to see if your sleep apnea is causing other problems, such as heart problems.
To treat obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may:
A CPAP machine pushes air into your throat through a mask. The pressurized air keeps your throat from closing. There are different masks. Some cover your mouth and nose. Others cover only your nose or fit inside your nose (like nose plugs). CPAP works very well, but many people aren't able to sleep well because of the mask.
Mouthpieces are plastic devices that fit over your teeth. You wear them at night. They're a little like the mouth guards that some athletes wear for sports. The mouthpieces are adjusted to pull your jaw forward. Pulling your jaw forward helps keep your throat from closing. A dentist makes the mouthpiece specially to fit your mouth.
Doctors will also have you do other things: