What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is repeatedly disrupted during sleep, which limits the amount of oxygen going to the brain and body.

Sleep apnea can spark a lot of questions. Luckily, we’ve got the answers. Keep reading below to learn more.


What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?

Symptoms of sleep apnea include:

  • Daytime fatigue

  • Dry mouth or a sore throat upon waking up

  • Morning headaches

  • Trouble with concentrating, forgetfulness, depression, or irritability

  • Night sweats

  • Restlessness during sleep

  • Loud snoring

  • Waking up suddenly gasping or choking

  • Trouble getting up in the mornings

  • Breathing stops during sleep (reported by another person)

What causes sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs when the muscles at the back of your throat relax, which narrows your airways and lessens the amount of oxygen going to your brain. You may snort, choke, or gasp yourself awake – this is your body’s way of waking you up slightly in order to get air flowing again.

What are the two types of sleep apnea?

The most common type of sleep apnea is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It occurs when there’s a blockage in your airway, which is usually caused by the soft tissue at the back of your throat collapsing during sleep.

The other type, Central Sleep Apnea (CSA), occurs when your brain fails to send signals to the muscles to breathe, causing instability in your respiratory centre.

There is a third type, which is a combination of both Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea.

Is sleep apnea hereditary?

While it’s unclear if sleep apnea is truly hereditary, genetically inherited physical traits (like your skull shape and characteristics of your upper airway muscles) can contribute to whether you’re prone to sleep apnea or not.

More often than not, an individual’s high body mass index (BMI) will be associated with sleep apnea. Smoking and nasal congestion from allergies make can make an individual more prone to sleep apnea. As well, there are many serious health conditions associated with sleep apnea, like type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or metabolic syndrome.  

Can you cure sleep apnea?

According to Harvard Health Publishing, experts emphasize that lifestyle modifications, like weight loss, is important to alleviating sleep apnea. Experts also recommends a continuous positive airway pressure, also known as CPAP, which is a mask worn over the nose and mouth that blows air into the airways to keep them open throughout the night.