Skip to content

Sleep Apnea Health Center

Font Size
A
A
A

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain -- and the rest of the body -- may not get enough oxygen.  

There are two types of sleep apnea:

Recommended Related to Sleep Apnea

Living With Sleep Apnea

When Dave Williams fell asleep while stopped at a red light 12 years ago, he had to face up to a problem. "I was falling asleep at inappropriate times," says Williams, then 45, a business consultant in Cordova, Tenn. His doctor diagnosed obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition in which breathing pauses repeatedly during sleep, and symptoms include loud snoring at night and sleepiness during the day. "People who have sleep apnea typically don't have any problems with their breathing while they're...

Read the Living With Sleep Apnea article > >

  • Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA): The more common of the two forms of apnea, it is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.
  • Central sleep apnea: Unlike OSA, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe, due to instability in the respiratory control center.

 

Am I at Risk for Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea can affect anyone at any age, even children. Risk factors for sleep apnea include:

  • Being male
  • Being overweight
  • Being over age 40
  • Having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in men and 16 inches or greater in women)
  • Having large tonsils, a large tongue, or a small jaw bone
  • Having a family history of sleep apnea
  • Gastroesophageal reflux, or GERD
  • Nasal obstruction due to a deviated septum, allergies, or sinus problems

     

 

What Are the Effects of Sleep Apnea?

If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD 
  • Headaches

In addition, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.

 


 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David T. Derrer, MD on September 02, 2014
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

Sleep Disorders What Are They
SLIDESHOW
Man sleeping on plane
SLIDESHOW
 
Sleep Fact or Fiction Test Yourself
QUIZ
Woman asleep with cpap mask on.
ARTICLE
 
Pet scan depression
VIDEO
Nighttime Heartburn
SLIDESHOW
 
Fight Fatigue Sleepiness On The Road
SLIDESHOW
Sleep Apnea Appliance
VIDEO
 
Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
SLIDESHOW
Sleep Apnea Clues
FEATURE
 
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
SLIDESHOW
Breus Sleep Apnea
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections