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What is Sleep Apnea?

Do you ever wake up gasping for air? Are you exhausted, sleepy or find it difficult concentrating? Does your partner complain of your loud snoring possibly associated with worrisome pauses in your breathing? You may have a serious health condition known as sleep apnea.

As you drift into sleep, your throat muscles relax. For some of us, these relaxed muscles become so slackened they interfere with our breathing, totally or partially blocking the upper airway. Obstructive sleep apnea is present when you stop breathing or have significant partial blockage of airflow lasting 10 seconds or more for an average of five times per hour or more of sleep time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 50 per cent of loud snorers have obstructive sleep apnea.

Symptoms

Are you concerned that you have sleep apnea? Possible symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring
  • Gasping for breath during the night/awakening in a panic
  • Excessive daytime fatigue/tiredness/ sleepiness
  • Dry mouth and airway related to sleep/thick throat phlegm
  • Morning headaches
  • Weight gain
  • Loss of concentration and energy
  • Insomnia

Health Risks

If left untreated, sleep apnea poses serious health risks that include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems such as heart attacks, congestive failure and atrial fibrillation
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Mood changes such as depression

Excessive daytime sleepiness, a side effect of sleep apnea, is a leading cause of accident and injury. Exhaustion and sleepiness can cloud your judgment and delay reaction time, resulting in car accidents and workplace injuries.

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