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Sleep Apnea: What Is It And Are You At Risk?

Posted by Johnson Memorial Health on Feb 19, 2015

Good sleep is important to your health. But nearly half of Americans­­, more than 100 million people of all ages, do not regularly sleep well. Sleep Apnea is one of many causes.

According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, 22 million Americans suffer from Sleep Apnea, with 80% of the cases of moderate to severe being undiagnosed.

So, what is this disease?


What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated Sleep Apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means that the brain - and the rest of the body - may not get enough oxygen.

There are two types of Sleep Apnea:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): This is the more common of the two forms. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
  • Central Sleep Apnea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe. This is caused by an instability in the respiratory control center.

Am I at risk for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors include:

  • Being male
  • Being over 40
  • Having a large neck size (17 inches+ or greater for men, 16+ for women)
  • Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
  • Having a family history of Sleep Apnea, Gastroesophageal Reflux, or GERD
  • Having an obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems

If you have these factors, you won't necessarily develop Sleep Apnea. Similarly, those without any of them can still develop the disease.

What are the effects of Sleep Apnea?

If left untreated, Sleep Apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD
  • Headaches

In addition, untreated Sleep Apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.

Almost half of Americans don't get enough rest. Are you one of them? If so, you thankfully don't have to lose sleep over this problem. Take our sleep test to see if you might have a sleep disorder. Try these suggestions for better sleep. If you think you might have Sleep Apnea, contact our Sleep Care Center. Diagnosis is the first step toward recovery.

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Topics: Sleep Apnea, Sleep