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Sleep Apnea

Apnea is the combination of two Greek words, a ("without") and pnea ("air"). Sleep apnea refers to the loss of breath during sleep. This results in a depletion of oxygen and a build up of carbon dioxide in the lungs and blood.

Snoring is the most obvious event associated with sleep apnea. Snoring results from a narrow airway which produces a rapid increase in airflow. This causes a suction on the sidewalls of the throat. Resistance to collapse results in the vibration of these elastic tissues and produces a snore sound. With sufficient suction, collapse of the airway (apnea) follows.

This is similar to using a pinched straw to drink from a glass. Like a pinched straw, the airway collapses and no air is introduced into the lungs. The person continues to sleep until the buildup of carbon dioxide triggers an arousal. This arousal may be less than sufficient to produce alertness. Often the patient will simply lighten his sleep for a few seconds, open his airway and return to sleep, and the collapsing process will repeat. The usual cycle is about once per minute. Therefore, it is possible for a person to experience 500 to 600 episodes of sleep apnea each night in more severe cases. The bed partner becomes aware of this problem because of pauses in air flow that are followed by gasping. They may become concerned that their mate is about to die in their sleep from choking.
  • Effects of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • How Do I Know If I Have Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
  • Long Term Effects of Sleep Apnea
  • Treatment Options
  • Who is at Risk For Developing Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • Snoring