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What is Sleep Apnea? Causes and Symptoms

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Most people may have already experienced snoring at some point in their lives. And although it is a condition that should not be concerned about, a loud and frequent snoring can be a warning sign of a more serious disorder known as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a condition in which the breathing of a person intermittently starts and stops as he or she sleeps. It is treatable, but it is often unrecognized, because people usually think that it is like a normal kind of snoring only. Taking the following into consideration, it is therefore important to distinguish the signs of a sleep apnea from a normal snore.

How Can Sleep Apnea Affect You?

Sleep apnea basically affects your breathing as you sleep. It can interrupt the breathing during sleep, resulting in fast, shallow breaths. The usual breathing pause is between 10 and 20 seconds, and can happen for a couple of times in an entire night. These lapses in breathing are the normal reason why people wake up during the night catching for breath. Also, people tend to resort to light sleeps and avoid deep, restorative sleeps in order to avoid breathing problems. As a result, people with sleep apnea are less active and less productive in the morning, because they have not slept well during the past night.

What Are The Different Kinds of Sleep Apnea?

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea – The most common of all sleep apneas. This happens when the soft tissues at the back of the throat relax during sleep, obstructing the airway and producing a loud snoring sound.
  • Central Sleep Apnea – This is a less common kind of sleep apnea, in which the central nervous system fails to send signals to and from the brain to control the pulmonary muscles necessary for breathing. Also, this kind of sleep apnea is associated with fewer cases of snoring.
  • Complex Sleep Apnea – This is basically the combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea.

How Can You Determine If You Have A Sleep Apnea?

  • Although it is hard to determine if you have a sleep apnea, you can ask your bed partner about your sleeping habits. This includes the loudness of your snore, the number of times that you gasp for breath, or the number of times that you paused for breath before you start a new breathing cycle.
  • Also, if you are regularly getting out of sleep because you feel like you are gasping for breathing or choking, these are major red flags for sleep apnea.

coughing - choking - breathing emergency

  • Other symptoms include sleepiness and less activeness during the day, headaches or lightheadedness, and dry mouth upon waking up.

If you suspect that you have the following signs and symptoms, it is important to talk to your doctor for further evaluation.

Related Video on Sleep Apnea:


“Sleep Apnea.” EMedicineHealth. Retrieved online on August 14, 2014 from

“Obstructive Sleep Apnea”. MyDr.Com. Retrieved online on August 14, 2014 from

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