Apnea is a medical word for "not breathing." Sleep apnea is when your breathing slows or stops for a short time and then restarts.
This happens over and over each night, often many times an hour. You wake up partway when your breathing stops. When you wake up, you start breathing again. Usually you don't remember waking up. However, it still breaks up a good night's sleep.
People with sleep apnea usually snore loudly at night and are very tired during the day
Doctors usually do a sleep study if they suspect sleep apnea
Doctors may treat you with a breathing machine connected to a mask, with a mouthpiece, or sometimes with surgery
If you're not treated, you have an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type. It happens when your throat closes up when your muscles relax during sleep.
Your risk of having obstructive sleep apnea is higher if the back of your mouth and throat is narrow to begin with. This is more common if you:
Your body is more likely to be built this way if you:
Other risk factors for sleep apnea include:
Hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid gland)
Drinking large amounts of alcohol
Using sedatives (medicines to help you sleep or be calm)
You don't usually notice anything wrong at night, but someone sleeping in your room probably does. That person may hear you:
Even though you don't notice anything at night, you may feel bad during the day. You may:
Most adults who snore don't have obstructive sleep apnea. But if you have sleep apnea, you're likely to snore.
You don't get enough oxygen during the times you're not breathing. Because you start breathing again, this isn't enough to hurt you right away. However, after a while, the low oxygen levels can cause problems:
Your doctor will usually do a test while you're sleeping. The test is called polysomnography or a "sleep study."
You may have to go to a special sleep center for the sleep study. Sometimes your doctor will have you do a simpler version at home. In both cases, you'll wear monitors on your head, body, and hand while you sleep. The monitors track your:
These tests don't hurt, but you may find it hard to sleep with all the monitors. Technicians watch you on a video monitor.
Doctors may do other tests to see if your sleep apnea is causing other problems, such as heart problems.
To treat obstructive sleep apnea, your doctor may:
A CPAP machine pushes air into your throat through a mask. The pressurized air keeps your throat from closing. There are different masks. Some cover your mouth and nose. Others cover only your nose or fit inside your nose (like nose plugs). CPAP works very well, but many people aren't able to sleep well because of the mask.
Mouthpieces are plastic devices that fit over your teeth. You wear them at night. They are a little like the mouth guards that some athletes wear for sports. The mouthpieces are adjusted to pull your jaw forward. Pulling your jaw forward helps keep your throat from closing. A dentist makes the mouthpiece specially to fit your mouth.
Doctors will also have you do other things: