Sleep apnea is a disorder that occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax too much, causing abnormal breathing. Apnea refers to each pause in breathing throughout the night which can last for several seconds or minutes at a time. People who suffer from sleep apnea wake up frequently during the night and those who suffer from severe cases might wake up close to 100 times in one night. As a result, people with this condition experience interrupted and inadequate sleep, daytime sleepiness, slower reaction time, vision issues, fatigue and drowsiness.
Some symptoms of sleep apnea include abrupt awakenings, loud snoring, gasping, difficulty staying asleep, trouble concentrating and forgetfulness. Although sleep apnea affects both children and adults, there are several factors that can contribute to this disorder. Some of the common risk factors include age, sex, obesity, smoking, use of alcohol or sedatives/tranquilizers, nasal obstruction, high blood pressure and family history.
Those who have sleep apnea are 2.5 times more likely to get in automobile accidents and are 3 to 5 times more likely to suffer from a head-on collision. In order to receive an accurate diagnosis, those who think they might be at risk should undergo a sleep study. This is characterized by overnight monitoring of bodily functions and breathing. Common treatments for this disorder are surgery, use of an oral appliance or a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) which is the most common treatment option in controlling sleep apnea.