Sleep Apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). OSA occurs when the throat muscles and tongue relax during sleep and partially block the opening of the upper airway, making breathing more labored and noisy (snoring) and even stopping it altogether (an apnea). Early diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea is important as it can lead to irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, difficulty concentrating, reduced memory, and daytime wakefulness. At Boston SleepCare, we provide a free assessment test for patients who may be at risk for sleep apnea.
Many factors can contribute to sleep apnea and patients are often unaware of this happening. Causes include excess weight, smoking, use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers, age 65+, male, neck circumference, high blood pressure, a narrowed airway or family history.
Sleep Apnea, if left untreated, can lead to:
High Blood Pressure
Fatigue Related Accidents
Decreased Quality of Life
Sleep Apnea Risks
Excess Weight Gain
Fat deposits around your upper airway may obstruct your breathing. However, not everyone who has sleep apnea is overweight. Thin people develop the disorder too.
Sleep apnea occurs two to three times more often in adults older than 65. For women, the risk also rises after menopause.
A neck circumference greater than 17 inches is associated with an increased risk of obstructive sleep apnea. That’s because a thick neck may narrow the airway and may be an indication of excess weight.
Family History of Sleep Apnea
If you have family members with sleep apnea, you may be at increased risk.
High Blood Pressure (hypertension)
Sleep apnea is not uncommon in patients with hypertension.
Smokers are much more likely to have obstructive sleep apnea than are nonsmokers. Smoking may increase the amount of inflammation and fluid retention in the upper airway. This risk drops once you quit smoking.
A Narrowed Airway
You may inherit a naturally narrow throat. Or, your tonsils or adenoids may become enlarged, which can block your airway.
Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea as women are. However, women increase their risk if they’re overweight, and the risk also appears to rise after.