Sleep apnea causes individuals to stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times and often for a minute or longer. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive (OSA), central and mixed, which is a combination of the first two. OSA is the most common type and is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep.
Some symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, morning headaches, memory problems and even feelings of depression.
Sleep apnea is very common and affects more than 12 million Americans, according to the National Institutes of Health. However, due to a lack of awareness, the vast majority remain untreated, despite the fact that it can result in serious consequences, including high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease, weight gain, impotency and headaches.
Treatment may include avoidance of alcohol and certain types of medication; positional therapy, surgery and the use of oral appliances.