Sleep Apnea

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In obstructive sleep apnea, the airways close during sleep. This can lead to loud snoring and lapses in breathing that can occur hundreds of times a night. Many people with OSA are not aware that they have a sleep disorder, and can snore, choke, and wake up over and over without ever being aware of it. A family member or bed partner often notices a person's poor sleep and their daytime symptoms.

The frequent interruptions of restorative sleep caused by sleep apnea can result in excessive daytime sleepiness and, in some cases, an early morning headache. Left untreated, sleep apnea may lead to serious medical problems. These include an irregular heart rate, heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Children with sleep apnea, on the other hand, may become hyperactive, rather than sleepy, during the day. This can cause problems with performance at school.

Like people with obstructive sleep apnea, those with central sleep apnea may also sleep poorly, and be sleepy during the day.

The symptoms below can indicate many sleep disorders. If you experience one or more of these symptoms, discuss your sleeping problems or concerns with your healthcare provider:

  • Excessive sleepiness or fatigue during the day
  • Difficulty sleeping, including trouble falling asleep, waking frequently during the night, waking too early and not being able to fall back asleep, or waking unrefreshed
  • Loud snoring
  • Pauses in breathing or gasping for breath during sleep, as reported by others
  • Difficulty concentrating or memory problems
  • Irritability or depression
  • Morning headaches
  • Nighttime leg discomfort or movement of your arms or legs while sleeping
  • Weakness or loss of muscle strength, often in response to a strong emotion
  • Sleepwalking or sleep talking
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure

Last reviewed on 09/20/2006

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