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Sleep apnea is a disorder that leads people to stop breathing intermittently throughout the night. Loud snoring can also indicate sleep apnea. Waking with shortness of breath and gasping for air, or a sense of choking may also be experienced by people with sleep apnea.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea is most common and occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat relax and cause a partial closure of the airway. Central sleep apnea is characterized by unclear communication signals between the brain, and the muscles required to regulate normal breathing patterns. Complex sleep apnea syndrome, also called treatment-emergent central sleep apnea, is a combination of both obstructive and central sleep apnea. Since the warning signs and symptoms of obstructive and central sleep apnea tend to overlap, complex sleep apnea is more difficult to identify. If you suspect you have sleep apnea, talk to your doctor; he or she can diagnose the condition with a series of screening questions and various sleep monitor applications.

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Anyone can have sleep apnea, including children, though certain factors increase the risk. Excess weight is a primary factor, though it is possible to have sleep apnea and not be overweight. People who are obese are four times more likely to have sleep apnea than people who are not. Other risk factors include: being male, alcohol and sedative usage, nasal congestion, neck circumference, smoking, and family history.

Common Symptoms

  • Loud snoring
  • Breathing cessation
  • Fatigue
  • Morning headache
  • Sore throat
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