What are the symptoms of sleep apnea?
Sleep apnoea refers to stopping breathing events in sleep. The cause is a narrowing or collapse of the upper airway (breathing tube in the neck) during sleep. When you go to sleep, your muscles relax, including those in your throat. In some people, this causes the airways to narrow.
When the airway narrows, the flow of air ceases and this causes the oxygen level in your blood to fall. The brain is very sensitive to lower oxygen levels and so it wakes you from sleep, activating the muscles in the neck which open the airway, allowing the airflow to start again, so that oxygen levels in the blood are corrected.
Once this has happened, the brain is happy and lets you go back to sleep again. The whole process then repeats. This all happens in a matter of seconds, but stopping breathing can occur 30 or more times an hour, meaning sleep is very disturbed and you feel groggy in the morning and sleepy in the daytime. Nighttime symptoms include snoring, waking up choking or gasping for air and irregular breathing patterns with pauses in breathing during sleep.
Can you die from sleep apnea?
You will not die from an apnoea in sleep, but untreated sleep apnoea syndrome is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease (strokes and heart attacks), as well as an increased risk of fatal driving accidents.