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Sleep Apnea


The experts at the Center for Sleep Medicine at Bridgeport Hospital have particular expertise in treating Sleep Apnea.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder, affecting more than 18 million adults in the United States.People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing for at least 10 seconds repeatedly during sleep.

Apnea is a Greek word that means "without breath." There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive, central and mixed. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type.

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What is Sleep Apnea?

In obstructive sleep apnea, the airway becomes blocked, usually when the tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep.

In central sleep apnea, the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe.

Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of the two.

In all three types of sleep apnea, the brain briefly awakens the sleeper to resume breathing. As a result, sleep is extremely fragmented and of poor quality. Sleep apnea may lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, mood and memory problems, obesity or depression.

What are the signs of sleep apnea?

Most people do not realize they have sleep apnea. A family member or bed partner may first notice the signs of sleep apnea. Frequent snoring is a strong indicator of sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea also tend to be very tired during the day, and they may suffer from a wide range of other symptoms, such as:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Learning and memory difficulties
  • Falling asleep while at work, on the phone or driving

Who is at risk for developing sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea occurs in all age groups and both sexes, but there are a number of factors that increase risk, including:

  • having a large neck size (17 inches or greater in a man or 16 inches or greater in a woman)
  • smoking and alcohol use
  • being age 40 or older
  • having a small upper airway, or large tongue, tonsils or uvula (skin at the back of the throat)
  • being overweight
  • having a recessed chin, small jaw or an overbite

How can I reduce my risk for developing sleep apnea?

Lifestyle changes that may help include:

  • Losing weight. Extra pounds contribute to sleep apnea.
  • Avoiding alcohol. Alcohol causes frequent nighttime awakenings and relaxes the upper airway breathing muscles.
  • Quitting smoking. Smoking worsens swelling in the upper airway, making apnea and snoring worse.
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