Sleep apnea is a common condition in the United States. People with sleep apnea have episodes of slow or stopped breathing during sleep. Dr. Mansfield, can you tell us more about sleep apnea?
Sure, Dr. Green. There are two forms of sleep apnea. Obstructed sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping airflow. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn't send the signals needed to breathe.
Sleep studies are used to diagnose sleep apnea. During a sleep study, the number of episodes of slow or stopped breathing and the number of central sleep apnea events are recorded. In addition, oxygen levels in the blood are monitored.
Common signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include:
- Snoring or gasping during sleep
- Reduced or absent breathing, and
- Daytime sleepiness
Undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea can prevent the restful sleep the body and brain need to function properly. This can lead to problems with attention, concentration, motor skills, and memory. In addition, sleep apnea can increase the risk for a number of other conditions, including:
- Diseases of the heart and blood vessels
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Eye disorders
- Pregnancy complications
- Metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes, and
- Many others
Breathing devices, such as continuous positive air pressure, or CPAP, machines, and lifestyle changes are common treatments for sleep apnea.