Do you wake up in the middle of the night feeling short of breath? Has your partner told you that you snore or stop breathing during the night? If so, you might be experiencing sleep apnea.

During sleep apnea, the airway closes, preventing air getting through. The person actually stops breathing for between 10-120 seconds. At some point, the brain “wakes up” and realizes it isn’t getting oxygen, and tells the airway to open to let air in. This pattern repeats itself throughout the night, and is characterized by loud snoring that sounds like gasping and snorting.

Because the brain keeps waking up, a person with sleep apnea does not have restful sleep, so will feel tired and irritable throughout the day. Lack of sleep hinders concentration and can lead to more accidents on the road or in the workplace.

Sleep apnea can be extremely dangerous, and is usually a symptom of a more serious health problem, such as obesity, heart attack, stroke and hypertension. It is important to see a doctor or sleep specialist immediately if you think you may have sleep apnea.

Treatment of sleep apnea is relatively simple and depends on a person’s circumstances. Treating a medical condition like obesity (by removing weight, which restricts the airway) can cure the sleep apnea. This is usually done via with exercise and a healthy diet, but might also be treated with surgery if the problem is severe.

For other patients, the use of an oral dental appliance worn at night moves the lower jaw down and forward. This helps keep the airway open for ease of breathing.

If you believe you may have sleep apnea, it’s important to see a doctor or sleep expert as soon as possible.

About the Author

The Sleep and Insomnia Guide is a collaboration of authors who are constantly looking out for the latest information to do with insomnia and sleeping disorders. Whilst not experts on the matter they have each been affected by sleep disorders themselves or someone they know has. The Insomnia and Sleep Guide is kept up to date with regular articles as well as submitted for others to share and use.