Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where you actually stop breathing for periods of time ranging from seconds to minutes, throughout your nighttime sleep. This can happen even hundreds of times per night. This means that your brain and body might not receive the oxygen that it needs, and thus cause a big problem. Unfortunately, more than 18 million Americans deal with sleep apnea.

When you sleep, the muscles that keep your airway open relax, which causes the airway to narrow or close, which causes you to stop breathing. This can lower the oxygen in your blood and cause a buildup of carbon dioxide. Your brain senses your breathing slowing down and awakens you for a brief moment. Many people will awake with a gasping or snorting sound. Because this can happen over and over during the night, it is common for sleep apnea sufferers to be quite drowsy during the day since they aren’t getting a full night’s rest. Interestingly though, many people do not recall these instances of waking during the night, so they think that they slept a full night.

But why does this happen? Here are some of the most common causes of sleep apnea:

Excess Weight
Having excess weight is heavily related to sleep apnea. This is because fat deposits surrounding the upper airways cause partial obstruction while sleeping.

Enlarged Tonsils
Enlarged tonsils narrow the upper airway and thus, create difficulty with breathing.

Chronic Nasal Congestion
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs twice as often in those who have consistent nasal congestion at night, regardless of the cause.

High Blood Pressure
Obstructive sleep apnea is quite common in people who have high blood pressure.

Males have twice the chance of premenopausal women to get sleep apnea. The chances of sleep apnea increase after women hit menopause.

These are some of the most common causes of sleep apnea, and unfortunately can be a very dangerous disorder if left untreated.

If this article has helped you identify symptoms of sleep apnea in yourself, and you’d like to find out more, please contact our office or call (858) 552-1223 and make an appointment. You can also visit our San Diego office, conveniently located at University Town Center (UTC) in La Jolla. We offer affordable therapies and treatments for sleep apnea which can be highly effective in reducing discomfort and help prevent some of the more severe health risks associated with sleep apnea. Call Dr. George today!