Sleep apnea is a serious medical condition that is associated with a wide range of different health-related problems. Sleep apnea is defined by complete cessation of breathing (lasting more than 10 seconds) during sleep.
Depending on the severity of the condition these apneas can occur in excess of a hundred times a night. This causes the body to become deprived of oxygen, and promotes the occurrence of other health-related problems to appear.
The term ‘apnea’ originates from the Greek word apnoia, which means ‘absence of respiration.’
You may have noticed several variations of the term apnea being used online. ‘Apnea’ and ‘apnoea’ are both used interchangeably in Australia. Similarly, the United States tends to use apnea, while the United Kingdom tends to prefer the term apnoea.
Studies have suggested that 4% of men and 2% of women worldwide suffer from sleep apnea, although it is expected to be much higher than that. From these figures alone it is obvious that sleep apnea is a serious health concern to the general public. This is why it is important for people to understand what sleep apnea is, and the potential risks and complications associated with it.
Types of Sleep Apnea
The most common risk factors associated with sleep apnea are:
- Obesity (neck size ≥ 17 inches)
- Age (>40 years old)
Other risk factors also include:
- Gender (higher prevalence in males)
- Disproportional features (i.e. large tongue, small jaw)
- Post-menopausal women
- Family history of sleep apnea
- Frequent smoking/alcohol use
- Upper airway abnormalities
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