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Sleep Disorder - Overview & Facts

Sleep Apnea - Overview & Facts

Sleep Apnea - Symptoms & Risk Factors

Sleep Disorder - Overview & Facts

Sleep Disorders is one of the fastest growing focuses of medicine today. Sleep Awareness by primary care physicians and the community acceptance for diagnostic tests and treatment have really grown in the last 5 years. Today, we estimate that 1 in 3 adults have some form of sleep disorders, and 1 in 4 children also suffer from sleep disorders.

It is estimated that more than 80% of patients that suffer from a sleep disorder still goes unnoticed, and undetected. There are over 150+ reported types of sleep disorders, sleep disorders is a growing concern, there has also been great medical advancements and numerous studies linking sleep disorders to many serious life-threatening conditions such as increased risk of strokes, heart disease/heart failure, diabetes type 2, high blood pressure/resistant hypertension, and colon-rectal cancer.

The more common sleep disorders that we hear about day to day are: Acute to Chronic insomnia, nocturnal bruxism (teeth grinding), night terrors, sleep paralysis, nocturnal seizures, sleep talking, sleep walking, periodic leg movements, restless leg syndrome, obesity hypoventilation and sleep apnea.

Sleep Apnea - Overview & Facts

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that causes a person to stop breathing during sleep. The airway repeatedly becomes blocked, limiting the amount of air that reaches his lungs. When this happens, that person may snore loudly or making choking noises as he tries to breathe. The person’s brain and body becomes oxygen deprived and he may wake up. This may happen a few times a night, or in more severe cases, several hundred times a night.

In many cases, an apnea, or temporary pause in breathing, is caused by the tissue in the back of the throat collapsing. The muscles of the upper airway relax when the person falls asleep. If the person sleeps on his back, gravity can cause the tongue to fall back. This narrows the airway, which reduces the amount of air that can reach his lungs. The narrowed airway causes snoring by making the tissue in back of the throat vibrate as you breathe.

Sleep apnea can make a person wake up in the morning feeling tired or unrefreshed even though he has had a full night of sleep. During the day, the person may feel fatigued, have difficulty concentrating or you may even unintentionally fall asleep. This is because the body is waking up numerous times throughout the night, even though the person might not be conscious of each awakening.

The lack of oxygen a body receives can have negative long-term consequences for one’s health. This includes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • Depression

There are many people with sleep apnea who have not been diagnosed or received treatment. A sleep medicine physician can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea using an in-lab sleep study or a home sleep test. Sleep apnea is manageable using Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), the front-line treatment for sleep apnea, oral appliance therapy or surgery.

Obstructive sleep apnea in adults is considered a sleep-related breathing disorder. Causes and symptoms differ for Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children, and Central Sleep Apnea.

Sleep Apnea - Symptoms & Risk Factors


The symptom most commonly associated with sleep apnea is snoring. Not everyone who snores has sleep apnea. If snoring is paired with choking or gasping sounds, it is likely to be sleep apnea. Daytime fatigue is another common symptom.

The symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Loud or frequent snoring
  • Choking or gasping while you sleep
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Morning headaches
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Insomnia due to difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up with dry mouth or a sore throat
  • Frequent need to urinate during the night
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Memory or learning problems
  • Moodiness, irritability, or depression

Risk Factors

A common misconception is that sleep apnea only affects older, overweight men. This widely-held assumption is wrong: anyone can have sleep apnea, regardless of gender, age or body type. If you have any of the following traits you may be at increase risk:

  • Excess weight – An adult with a BMI of 25 or higher is considered to be overweight. Your risk of sleep apnea increases with the amount of excess body weight.
  • Large neck size (>17 inches for men, > 16 inches for women) – A large neck will have more fatty tissue that can block your airway.
  • Older age (40+ for men, 50+ for women) – Sleep apnea occurs more often in older adults, especially people older than 60.
  • Being male – Men have twice the risk of having sleep apnea compared to women
  • Smoker – Smokers have a higher risk of sleep apnea
  • Hypertensive – High blood pressure is very common in people with sleep apnea
  • Family history – Sleep apnea can appear more often among family members. This may be a result of either inherited traits or common lifestyles.