What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep Better in Tampa  Tired woman with sleep apnea

Chronic snoring and interrupted sleep aren’t just minor inconveniences. They could be signs of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a common but serious sleep disorder that causes interruptions in breathing during sleep. These pauses in breathing are called apneas, and they can happen hundreds of times each night. 

Sleep apnea can have a negative impact on your health, interfere with your quality of life, and can prevent you from getting the restful sleep your body desperately needs. If you suspect that you might have sleep apnea, our team at Sleep Better Tampa can help. 

Types of Sleep Apnea

Since the most common sleep apnea symptoms are excessive snoring and pauses in breathing, many people assume there is only one version of the condition. However, there are three distinct types of sleep apnea, including:

  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is by far the most common type of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea causes the muscles in the back of the throat, which naturally become more relaxed during sleep, to collapse and interfere with your normal breathing pattern. The blocked airway often causes the patient to snore, which is why loud snoring is the most frequent symptom.
  • Central Sleep Apnea This disorder, which is less common than obstructive sleep apnea, is trickier to diagnose and treat. Central sleep apnea, or CSA, occurs when the brain doesn’t send the proper messages to the muscles that control breathing. This type of sleep apnea is neurological and often affects people who suffer from underlying conditions. 
  • Complex Sleep Apnea Complex sleep apnea is a combination of obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. In patients with complex sleep apnea, breathing problems persist even after their airway obstruction is addressed and treated. This indicates that something besides the collapsing throat muscles contributes to the apnea symptoms. Fortunately, this is the rarest kind of sleep apnea.

Sleep Disorder Misconceptions

Sleep apnea is a common condition, but it’s also often misunderstood. There are several myths and misconceptions surrounding the sleep disorder, such as:

    • “If you snore, that means you have sleep apnea.” Simple snoring is not typically an indication of a sleep disorder. If it interrupts your sleep, or if you stop breathing during the night, you should definitely visit a sleep specialist for an evaluation. But many people of all ages snore lightly when they sleep, which is normal.
    • “Sleep apnea only affects overweight people.” While there is a link between sleep apnea and obesity, patients with a healthy BMI can also develop the disorder.
  • “Only men have sleep apnea.” For a long time, it was thought that sleep apnea was more common in men. The truth is, there are many reasons why sleep apnea in women too often goes undiagnosed for a lot of reasons. They may snore more quietly than men, leaving their symptoms unnoticed. Their symptoms also may present themselves differently, such as insomnia, morning headaches, and a lack of energy. 
  • “Sleep apnea only occurs in adults.” Pediatric sleep apnea isn’t as common, but an estimated 3% of children nationwide suffer from sleep apnea. 

The Dangers of Untreated Sleep Disorders

Our bodies need daily rest in order to function properly. Continuously interrupted sleep can result in serious health problems. Potential health issues that may result from untreated sleep apnea include:

  • Heart attack
  • Sudden death
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • ADHD
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Impaired memory

Chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to an increased risk of accidents, both on the job and in your vehicle. If you have sleep apnea, it’s best to seek out a diagnosis and treatment right away. This quiz can help you decide whether to visit us for a consultation.

Treat Your Sleep Apnea in Tampa

Dr. Juliet Bulnes-Newton is Tampa’s trusted sleep expert. If you think you might have a sleep disorder, call us today at (813) 607-5337 or click here to schedule a complimentary consultation.