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Understanding Sleep Apnea


The interruption of sleep due to airway obstruction and pauses in breathing is known as sleep apnea. This condition may lead to serious health issues. lists the following types of sleep apnea and gives an example of what occurs during a sleep apnea episode:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when the soft tissue in the back of your throat relaxes during sleep, causing a blockage of the airway (as well as loud snoring).
  • Central sleep apnea is a much less common type of sleep apnea that involves the central nervous system, rather than an airway obstruction. It occurs when the brain fails to signal the muscles that control breathing. People with central sleep apnea seldom snore.
  • Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Anatomy of a sleep apnea episode:

As air flow stops during a sleep apnea episode, the oxygen level in the blood drops. Your brain responds by briefly disturbing your sleep enough to kick start breathing- which often resumes with a gasp or a choking sound. If you have obstructive sleep apnea, you probably will not remember these awakenings. Most of the time you will stir just enough to tighten your throat muscles and open your windpipe. In central sleep apnea, you may be conscious of your awakenings.