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Sleep Apnea in Adults and Children

Sleep Apnea in Adults and Children

Does your spouse complain of your nightly snoring or grinding of your teeth? Do you feel fatigued and exhausted despite getting hours of sleep? If so, you may be suffering from sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious, yet common, sleep disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. Normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or a choking sound1.

There are three main types of sleep apnea2:

Obstructive sleep apnea, the more common form that occurs when throat muscles relax.

Central sleep apnea, which occurs when your brain doesn’t send proper signals to the muscles that control breathing.

Complex sleep apnea syndrome, which occurs when someone has both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea often goes undiagnosed as it cannot be detected during routine doctor visits or blood tests. A family member or a bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea. Though obstructive sleep apnea is more common in people who are overweight, it can affect anyone. Central sleep apnea can also affect anyone, though it is more common in people who have certain medical conditions or use certain medicines. Snoring typically doesn’t happen with central apnea3.

In children, enlarged tonsils or adenoids and dental conditions such as a large overbite, can cause obstructive sleep apnea. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea and lead to learning, behavior, growth and heart problems in children4.

Regardless of age, untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious complications including high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, arrhythmias, heart failure, accidents and premature death5.

If you suspect you, your partner or child of having sleep apnea, consider keeping a sleep diary for 1 to 2 weeks. You will then need to see a sleep specialist—a doctor that diagnoses and treats people with sleep problems.

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