Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a physical condition caused by the airway collapsing. The result is an interruption in breathing that lasts for at least 10 seconds. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. Such events can occur several hundred times a night severely disrupting sleep.
When your brain is given the choice between sleeping and breathing, it always picks breathing. So with obstructed breathing, your brain's response is to wake up. These awakenings are very brief and often are not remembered unless you wake up choking. Your throat muscles respond to your brain's message to wake up, you begin breathing again, your blood oxygen levels return to normal, and then you fall back asleep. If your airway partially closes and then you wake up, it is called a hypopnea. If your airway fully closes, it is called an apnea. The term "sleep-disordered breathing" (SDB) includes a spectrum of respiratory disorders ranging in severity from snoring to OSA.
Sleep apnea usually is a chronic condition that disrupts your sleep 3 or more nights each week. You often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep when your breathing pauses or becomes shallow. This results in poor sleep quality that makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is one of the leading causes of excessive daytime sleepiness.
Snorers may not realize that they have difficulty breathing at night unless there is someone listening to them who can tell them that they snore, or sound like they are holding their breath. Having someone to watch and listen to you sleep can be very helpful. If a bed partner witnesses that you stop breathing, it is a warning that you may have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
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