Do You Have Sleep Apnea?

Snoring can be an annoying habit, especially for your partner or roommate, but might not be as harmless as some background noise.  For those living with sleep apnea, snoring can be a serious symptom.  Sleep apnea is when people stop and restart breathing multiple times while sleeping. Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that is often linked to obesity, especially in the U.S.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, there are over 18 million Americans who suffer from sleep apnea.


Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts resulting in low oxygen levels in blood.  Sleep apnea can cause you to wake up frequently throughout the night, but many sufferers claim they do not recall this restlessness the following morning. It also causes sleepiness and drowsiness during the day which can increase the risk of sleep deprivation related accidents and illness.  Furthermore, sleep apnea is associated with depression, reduced quality of life, cardiovascular disease, heart disease, strokes, hypertension and cardiovascular mortality.  That’s quite a long list, which is why if you do experience some of the symptoms, like snoring loudly or feeling tired even after a full night's sleep, you should bring it to the attention of a medical professional.

As mentioned, sleep apnea is characterized by a stopping and starting of breathing.  Episodes of not breathing can last from a few seconds to a few minutes. And this stop, start can happen up to 30 times or sometimes even more per hour. For most suffering from sleep apnea, breathing stops when the airway collapses, blocking the flow of air to and from the lungs. In a lesser number of people with the condition, the episodes result from a communication problem with the brain and how it controls breathing.

There are two main types of sleep apnea:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea:  the more common type occurring when throat muscles relax
  • Central sleep apnea:  less common type, occurs when your brain doesn't send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing

Although it can be managed with proper treatment, sleep apnea often goes undetected. When not treated, it raises the risk of heart disease and other serious health problems. Sleep apnea has also been found to lead to insomnia.  One of the major causes of sleep apnea is being overweight or obese, and for many, a reduction in weight can help alleviate the symptoms of this disorder. 

Quick Facts

What is Sleep Apnea?

·         Breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep

·         “Apnea” a breathing pause that lasts 10 seconds

·         Make sleeping very hard and lowers blood oxygen levels

·         May lead to hypertension, heart disease, mood and memory problems

·         Increases risk of falling asleep while driving

Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea

·         Excess weight

·         Neck circumference >17 inches

·         High blood pressure

·         Narrowed airway

·         Being male

·         Being older

·         Family history

·         Use of alcohol, sedatives or tranquilizers

·         Smoking

·         Prolonged sitting


·         Chronic snoring

·         Sleeplessness

·         Difficulty concentrating

·         Irritability

·         Sexual dysfunction

·         Learning and memory difficulties


·         Cardiovascular issues – the sudden drops in blood oxygen levels increase blood pressure and strain the cardiovascular system

·         Daytime fatigue – waking up repeatedly throughout the night that is associated with sleep apnea can make normal, restorative sleep impossible

·         Complications with medicine and surgery – difficulty with anesthesia, and breathing post-operatively