Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common category of sleep-disordered breathing. It’s estimated that obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) currently affects more than 13 million people in the United States. Approximately 2% of women and 4% of men over the age of 35 are affected. One in five adults suffers from at least mild sleep apnea and one in 15 adults has at least moderate sleep apnea. OSA also affects 1% to 3% of children.
A serious sleep disorder, obstructive sleep apnea is a condition where the individual actually stops breathing repeatedly for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. This occurs when the oral structures in the back of the mouth and throat relax during sleep and collapse causing a blockage of airflow. Although common, sleep apnea often goes completely undiagnosed since many sufferers are not even aware it’s happening.
This cessation in breathing, or apnea episode, can last a minute or longer in duration and might be repeated as many as a hundred times or more during a single night. The frequent arousals and the inability to achieve or maintain deeper stages of sleep are the main factors which contribute to the debilitation of one’s health. These apnea episodes work to initiate impulses from the brain to awaken the person just enough to restart the breathing process. This cycle repeats itself many times during the night and may result in sleep deprivation and a number of health-related problems. Sleep apnea is generally defined as the presence of more than 30 apneas during a seven hour sleep. In severe cases, periods of not breathing may last for as long as 60 to 90 seconds and may recur up to 500 times a night.