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Sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that causes people to stop breathing in their sleep. These brief interruptions in breathing occur when the airway closes and air cannot flow in or out of a person’s nose or mouth. When this happens, the brain must send signals so muscles arouse and breathing resumes. Pauses are usually accompanied by snorting and gasping sensations. Frequent interruptions in deep sleep may cause tiredness, sleepiness, memory or judgment problems, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and personality changes.

Usually, spouses, significant others or family members are the first to detect a sleep disorder. People with sleep apnea experience many health risks but are often unaware of the cause. Sleep apnea occurs in both men and women and in all ages, though it is more common in men.

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Sleep apnea symptoms

General symptoms related to sleep apnea include:

  • Loud, chronic snoring
  • Gasping or choking episodes during sleep
  • Sudden body movements before breathing starts again during sleep
  • Excessive sweating during sleep
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Confusion or brief memory loss
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Unexplained morning headache
  • Personality changes or cognitive difficulties related to fatigue
  • Decreased performance at work
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Irritability and short temper

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