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What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes people to stop breathing in their sleep. When breathing stops, oxygen levels in the blood drop dramatically which signal the brain to jolt the body out of sleep. This puts stress on the heart and disrupts the sleep cycle. As a result, sleep apnea patients suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness and are at high risk for cardiovascular problems such as heart failure, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, arrhythmias, and more. Additionally, recent studies provide evidence linking sleep apnea and other diseases including cancer, diabetes, overactive bladder, impotence, developmental disabilities in children.

Risk Factors

One of the most prominent risk factors for sleep apnea is being overweight or obese, although patients with normal weight can also have sleep apnea. Other factors that increase the risk of having sleep apnea include: being male, older age, having a family history of sleep apnea, or having a wide neck. Patients with risk factors should be screened and tested for sleep apnea.

Symptoms and Screening

The main signs and symptoms of sleep apnea are excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, and witnessed apneas. As well your partner may witness you stop breathing in your sleep or wake up gasping or choking for breath. A home sleep study and several questionnaires have been developed to screen patients for sleep apnea. To find out if you are at risk for sleep apnea or order testing and treatment, pick one of the options below: