What Is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that happens when breathing is repeatedly interrupted due to a blockage in your nose or throat. This disruption keeps you in light sleep rather than the restorative sleep you need to be fully functioning the next day. Other serious symptoms of sleep apnea may include weight gain, stroke, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

There are different types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea (a combination of the two). The first is more common and happens when your throat muscles relax. The second is caused when your brain fails to send the right signals to the muscles that control your breathing.

If you’ve been feeling irritable or exhausted, or if you have a partner who complains of your snoring, you may have sleep apnea. After consulting your doctor, they may recommend you have a thorough evaluation by an ENT.

Common Causes Of Sleep Apnea

In a sleep apnea episode your airflow drops, causing the oxygen level in your blood to do the same. Your brain detects this and disturbs you enough to start your breathing again (causing you to gasp or choke).

Your risk for obstructive sleep apnea is increased if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Are male
  • Have a relative with sleep apnea
  • Are over 65 years old
  • Are African American, Hispanic, or Pacific Islander
  • Are a smoker
  • Have allergies
  • Have enlarged tonsils or adenoids
  • Have a cold


Central Sleep Apnea’s Risk Factors:

  • Male
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Neurological disease
  • Spinal or brainstem injury

To learn more about our evaluation procedures and treatment options, visit our sleep apnea evaluation and treatment page. Thank you for your interest!