What is sleep apnea?
Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and for 10 seconds or longer. When you stop breathing or have a reduced flow of air into your lungs during sleep, the amount of oxygen in your blood decreases and carbon dioxide levels increase. This makes your heart and blood vessels work harder and can affect your heart rate. The number of times you stop breathing while sleeping, determines the severity of sleep apnea.
Is sleep apnea dangerous?
Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition if left untreated. Sleep apnea is estimated to affect as many as 42 million Americans, and the vast majority remain undiagnosed and untreated. Early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea is important, as severe sleep apnea may be associated with the following:
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Irregular heartbeat
- Heart attack
- High blood sugar levels and increased risk of Diabetes
- Excessive sleepiness, increasing risk of motor vehicle accidents
- Increased risk of complications during and post-surgery
Who is affected by sleep apnea?
People most likely to develop or have sleep apnea include those who snore loudly, may be overweight or have high blood pressure. However, anyone can be at risk for sleep apnea.
How is sleep apnea treated?
The most successful and frequently used form of treatment is Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) therapy. Successful long-term treatment of sleep apnea with CPAP can reduce the risk of stroke, heart and blood pressure problems, decrease daytime sleepiness and/or fatigue, improve blood sugar levels, and improve your quality of life.