Sleep apnea is of particular concern. It is thought to contribute to other serious medical conditions.
What is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the airway closes, collapses or becomes blocked during sleep. This closing or obstruction of the airway prevents the flow of air and oxygen to the lungs and body. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused when tissue and structures in the back of the throat and airway relax or collapse during sleep. To compensate for insufficient airflow, the individual will make increased efforts to breathe and eventually will wake up – either partially or completely – to open the airway and take a breath.
Typically, the individual will wake up, emit a vigorous snort or grunt while gasping for air, then immediately fall back to sleep, only to repeat the cycle. Persistent snoring is also commonly associated with sleep apnea. Since sleeping pills may be harmful for people with sleep apnea, they should not be taken if the condition is suspected.
Individuals with obstructive sleep apnea may stop breathing hundreds of times per night, which severely interrupts their sleep. Poor sleep at night can show its effects during the day, as people have difficulty functioning, are less alert, and are more prone to accidents. Obstructive sleep apnea also can lead to health complications, such as high blood pressure, heart damage, heart attack and stroke.