Sleep apnea can occur in adults, infants, and children. It is defined as a medical condition that usually occurs when a person stops breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time while they are sleeping. There are three main types of apnea: obstructive, central, and mixed; obstructive is the most common. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by a blockage in the airway, usually resulting from when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and then closes while the patient is asleep. (For great pictures of what the disease looks like visit the web site http://www.cpapman.com/disorder.htm).
Sleep apnea can be classified according to the number of times per hour a person stops breathing (apnea). Sleep apnea episodes occur from 5 to 50 times an hour. During these episodes, a person's blood oxygen level may drop to dangerous levels. With time, low blood oxygen levels may lead to serious health problems and possibly early death. People who have sleep apnea may be at increased risk for developing high blood pressure, high blood pressure in the lungs, depression, mental impairment, irregular heart rhythms, heart disease, and stroke. .
Some people with sleep apnea, maybe cured with simple steps such as losing weight, developing better sleeping habits, and avoiding alcohol, and taking sleep medications. However, other people, generally those with a more prevalent case, may need to use a breathing device known as a continuous positive airway pressure [CPAP]. This prevents the airway from closing during sleep. While CPAP is the most common treatment for sleep apnea, surgery may be needed if enlarged tissues are causing the blockage.