Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially fatal medical condition in which breathing stops and starts repeatedly during sleep. This pattern can repeat itself 10 or more times an hour all night, resulting in serious cardiovascular complications, such as high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, stroke and abnormal heart rhythms. (Genesis Health, 2014)
THE TWO MAIN TYPES OF SLEEP APNEA
Obstructive Sleep Apnea: This is the most common form of the disorder. The throat muscles supporting the soft palate, the uvula (a triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate), the side walls of the throat and the tongue relax, narrowing or obstructing the airway. As you inhale, you’re unable to take an adequate breath, lowering the oxygen level in the blood. Your brain registers this inability and briefly rouses you from sleep so you can reopen your airway.
Central Sleep Apnea: This less common form occurs when the brain sends faulty signals to the muscles controlling breathing. You may have a hard time getting to sleep or staying asleep. Central sleep apnea is usually caused by heart failure or, more rarely, stroke.