Sleep apnea is a severe sleeping disorder where the patient may or may not be aware of it. It is a condition where a person is unable to attain deep sleep because his or her sleep is interrupted in short intervals. A patient suffering from sleep apnea may experience pauses in breathing while asleep. He or she will find it hard to breathe for almost ten seconds at a time when oxygen levels to the brain are obstructed. At this point the patient moves from deep sleep and is partially awakened, gasping for breath.
This is primarily due to the blockage of airflow when the tongue drops back and obstructs the upper airway (located at the back of the throat). The blockage causes disruption in the flow of oxygen that passes through from both the mouth and the nose into the lungs. The patient may not be aware of this problem and it can take place up to 50 times an hour, making the patient feel tired the next day. Large tonsils and weight gain also makes it difficult for the throat to stay open. These are also causes for reduced oxygen supply to profuse the brain and the heart. Such situations may lead to heart disease, brain damage, high blood pressure, and even sudden death.
Even though the patient may have been suffering from sleep apnea for years, it is likely that he or she can be unaware of the seriousness of the disease. The patient is likely to become accustomed to daytime sleepiness and tiredness and may consider it quite normal. It is important to understand the seriousness of this disease and should not to be treated lightly. This is a fairly new area in health science and doctors continue to research on this topic while learning more and more about sleep apnea each day.