Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times each night. This means the brain, and the rest of the body, may not get enough oxygen. Sleep apnea is typically diagnosed with a physical exam, and your doctor may order a sleep study where your breathing is monitored overnight while you sleep.
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common of the two forms of apnea, and it is caused by a blockage of the airway when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. In the other type of apnea, central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.
Sleep apnea is a highly treatable disorder, and treatments are similar to those for snoring, ranging from lifestyle changes, such as weight loss or changing sleep positions, to CPAP therapy and surgery.