Breathing on and off during sleep -Sleep Apnea

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Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized with cessation and resumption of breath while asleep arising from the blocking of the upper airways. It is also known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). It accounts for sleeplessness in babies leading to growth, learning, behavior and heart disorders as well as loss of life if left untreated. 



Excessive or prolong relaxation of the throat muscle leading to the collapse of the airways.

Neurological disorder

Enlarged tonsils


Risk factors

Defective body structures such as the mouth, throat narrowing the airways


Cerebral Palsy

Supine sleeping

Chronic sinusitis


Down syndrome


Family history of sleep apnea

Large overbite

Large neck and tongue



Intermittent break in sleep especially at night

Brief gasping

Daytime sleepiness


Loud snoring

Waking up several times a night to urinate

Morning headache



Low sexual urge

Erectile Dysfunction

Incessant break of sleep especially at night


Restless sleep


Behavioral problems




Sleep study known as polysomnography is highly effective in diagnosing sleep apnea usually done at an overnight sleep laboratory and focus on recording  brain waves, eye and leg movements, oxygen levels, airflow and heart rhythm during sleep.

Similarly, Home Sleep Apnea Testing (HSAT) can also be used to monitor the level of oxygen in the blood, the movement of air via the nose while breathing as well as heart rate and chest movements while the user is asleep.

The severity of sleep apnea is measured with the number of apnea episodes that happen per hour:

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Normal – 0-5 apnea episodes per hour

Mild sleep apnea – 5-15 apnea episodes per hour

Moderate sleep apnea – 16-30 apnea episodes per hour

Severe sleep apnea – 31+ episodes per hour




Surgical intervention known as adenotonsillectomy may be recommended to remove tonsils and adenoids.

Airway pressure therapy may be done involving use of mask to cover the nose and mouth during sleep. The mask is connected to a machine that continuously pumps air into it to open the airways.

Regular exercise to reduce weight


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