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Sleep Apnea - Symptoms and Types

Sleep apnea is a disorder experienced by many people in our community. Some estimates put the figure as high as 10%. The symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, waking up often during the night, being excessively tired, being irritable, and experiencing depression during the day. The word apnea means without rest.

One of the characteristics of people with sleep apnea is that while they are sleeping they will have periods when they stop breathing, sometimes for as long as a minute. The result of this is that the blood oxygen level falls, and the subconscious mind, which is monitoring the blood oxygen level, alerts the body and so it wakes up. Some people with sleep apnea may wake up several hundred times a night, without ever realising it.

The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea, usually referred to as OSA. It happens because the throat closes completely during sleep. This happens because the suction forces that come from snoring cause the persons tongue and soft palate, to be sucked into the airway and block it. When the person wakes up, the muscles in the throat and tongue contract and the person starts to breathe again.

Another type of sleep apnea is central apnea. This happens when the brain and the nervous system are not co-ordinated in telling the body when to breathe.

Mixed apnea includes elements of both obstructive and central apnea.

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