Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. This means the brain — and the rest of the body — may not get enough oxygen.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
Central sleep apnea: when the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Being male
- Being overweight
- Being over age 40
- Having a large neck
- Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
- Having a family history of sleep apnea
- Gastro esophageal reflux, or GERD
- Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heartbeats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
In addition, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.
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