Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths during sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing several times during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night. In the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into a light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
This is the most common type of sleep apnea, where breathing is paused temporarily due to obstructed airways from relaxed soft tissues in the back of the throat during sleep. When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, and you are unable to get an adequate breath in. This may lower the level of oxygen in your blood. You may make a snorting, choking or gasping sound. This pattern can repeat itself several times, all night long. These disruptions impair your ability to reach restful phases of sleep, and you’ll probably feel sleepy during the day times. People with obstructive sleep apnea may not be aware that their sleep was interrupted. In fact, some people with this type of sleep apnea think they sleep well all night.
Central sleep apnea
This type of sleep apnea occurs when your brain does not send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing hence there is no effort to breathe for short periods of time. You may awaken with shortness of breath or have a difficult time getting to sleep or staying asleep. It is usually seen in patients with central nervous system dysfunction, such as following a stroke or in patients with heart failure.
Risk factors for obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
Risk Factors for central sleep apnea
Your physician may make an evaluation based on your signs and symptoms and may refer you to our Sleep Disorder Center to conduct a sleep study. During this test, wires and sensors will be connected to your head, face, chest, abdomen, arms and legs to monitor your breathing, heart, brain activity, arm and leg movements and blood oxygen levels while you sleep.
Treatments for central sleep apnea may include:
Treatments for OSA may include:
Please see other Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi sleep apnea handouts for further information regarding treatment options.
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