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    Obstructive Sleep Apnea Explained

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    What Is Sleep Apnea?

    When you have this condition, your breath can become very shallow or you may even stop breathing -- briefly -- while you sleep. It can happen many times a night in some people.

    Obstructive sleep apnea happens when something partly or completely blocks your upper airway during shut-eye. That makes your diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp, snort, or body jerk. You may not sleep well, but you probably won't be aware that this is happening.

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    The condition can also reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs and cause irregular heart rhythms.


    The most common obstructive sleep apnea warning signs include:

    • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue
    • Dry mouth or sore throat when you wake up
    • Headaches in the morning
    • Trouble concentrating, forgetfulness, depression, or irritability
    • Night sweats
    • Restlessness during sleep
    • Problems with sex
    • Snoring
    • Waking up suddenly and feeling like you're gasping or choking
    • Trouble getting up in the mornings

    If you share a bed with someone, they'll probably notice it before you do.

    Symptoms in children may not be as obvious. They may include:

    • Bedwetting
    • Choking or drooling
    • Sweating a lot at night
    • Ribcage moves inward when they exhale
    • Learning and behavior disorders
    • Problems at school
    • Sluggishness or sleepiness (often misinterpreted as laziness in the classroom)
    • Snoring
    • Teeth grinding
    • Restlessness in bed
    • Pauses or absence of breathing
    • Unusual sleeping positions, such as sleeping on the hands and knees, or with the neck hyperextended

    Talk to your doctor if you notice any of these problems. There are a lot of other possible causes for these symptoms as well.

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