The week of October 6 to October 13, 2014 is Sleep Apnea Awareness Week, an annual, national event sponsored by the American Sleep Association (ASA) to increase awareness about sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea affects millions of Americans, and Sleep Apnea Awareness Week provides an opportunity for everyone to learn more about this sleep disorder. This event promotes public awareness about sleep disorders and sleep health. The website has a wealth of information on sleep apnea risks, symptoms and treatments.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a condition where a person’s breathing pauses or becomes very shallow while he or she sleeps. According to the ASA, breathing pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a minute and can occur up to sixty times or more per hour of sleep. Normal breathing resumes with a choking or snorting sound.

Sleep apnea is a serious condition that disrupts sleep quality and prevents the body from the getting the rest and oxygen it needs. It often goes undetected until someone makes you aware of the problem – usually a person who sleeps near you.

Types of Sleep Apnea

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea less common; it is caused by failure of the part of the brain that controls breathing to send signals to muscles that enable breathing.

When this occurs, the sleeping person makes no effort to breathe at all for brief periods of time. Snoring does not occur with central sleep apnea. According to the ASA, central sleep apnea can occur by itself or with obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. The airway collapses or becomes blocked during sleep, causing pauses in breathing or very shallow breathing. Air that does manage to get through the blocked airways creates a loud snoring noise.

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

According to the Mayo Clinic, you have a higher risk for sleep apnea if you:

  • Are over 60
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Are male
  • Are African-American
  • Have a large, thick neck
  • Have a family history
  • Are a smoker
  • Have a naturally narrower throat or enlarged adenoids or tonsils
  • Have nasal congestion from allergies, illness or an anatomical anomaly
  • Drink alcohol, take sedatives or tranquilizers which relax your throat muscles
  • Have had a brain tumor or stroke
  • Have a heart disorder

Complications from Sleep Apnea

Potential complications from sleep apnea include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk for stroke, congestive heart failure and atrial fibrillation
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Mood swings, irritability
  • Poor performance at work or school
  • Morning headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating or focusing

If you or someone you love snores, or you have any of the above risk factors, please call Atlanta ENT today to schedule a sleep apnea assessment.