Do you wake up tired? Does your partner complain that you snore? If so, you may be 1 in about 5 Canadian adults suffering from sleep apnea1 – and not know you have it.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition where the muscles in the back and sides of your throat relax so much while you sleep, that this briefly blocks your breathing. When it happens your oxygen levels can drop, causing your brain to wake you up just enough to tense your throat muscles and take a breath (often unconsciously). Then you fall back into a disrupted deep sleep and the cycle continues – usually without you even noticing.
Sleep apnea can cause you to feel very tired throughout the day - sometimes falling asleep at work or while driving.
There are three types of sleep apnea
Yes it is normal – after you fall asleep your throat muscles relax and can cause a blockage for a few seconds. Most people might stop breathing, wake up a little, take a breath and fall into deeper sleep again, several times a night .
But when it happens more than five times per hour it is probably sleep apnea. In severe cases it can happen more than 30 times per hour.
Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups – including newborn babies – but is most common in people who are over 50 and people who are overweight 3. It is also more common in men than women 4.
Other physical characteristics such as large tonsils, a small nose, some thyroid conditions and nasal congestion can increase your chances of sleep apnea. Drinking alcohol or taking sedatives, narcotics, or sleeping pills before sleep can also relax your throat and worsen your sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea causes a range of symptoms. You may have sleep apnea if you have two or more of these:
People who have sleep apnea often suffer from other conditions that are associated with, or in some cases are caused by their sleep apnea. 4,5,6,7
By treating your sleep apnea, you may also be able to reduce the severity of, or the risk of suffering from: