What is Sleep Apnea?

Typically, sleep apnea is characterized by abnormal pauses called apneas in an individual’s breathing pattern or abnormally low breathing patterns called hypopneas. These events of apneas and hypopneas can occur throughout the sleeping cycle lasting a for seconds and upwards to minutes.

Sleep apnea disrupts an individual sleeping pattern, essentially affecting the quality of sleep and resulting in a variety of health concerns and complications. Since the condition happens when one is sleeping, it is not easily recognized and cannot be diagnosed through blood tests. Clinical symptoms that manifest from sleep apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue. With the addition of a sleep study test, one can be formally diagnosed and treated for the breathing disorder.

Untreated sleep apnea can have great consequences on the health and quality of life of an individual.

Sleep apnea can increase the risk of:

  • Heart failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart attacks
  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats)
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Neurocognitive and mood disorders
  • Depression

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which results from soft tissue (pharyngeal) collapse subsequently obstructing breathing during sleep. As the air passage is obstructed, oxygen levels in the blood decrease to dangerous levels.

To counteract the soft tissue collapse, positive airway pressure (PAP) is utilized to reverse and alleviate the obstruction. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) is the most effective treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. With the use of CPAP during the sleeping cycle, the former obstructed airway is splinted open and air is allowed to flow freely through the respiratory system. With few to no apnea or hypopnea episodes by the use of CPAP, the sleeping pattern is not disrupted and the individual has a proper, well-rested sleep.

Read More: Sleep Disordered Breathing