Understanding the Dangers
Sleep apnea is a condition in which your breathing stops while you sleep. It can occur hundreds of times a night, and you may not be aware of it—your brain only wakes up just enough to restore breathing. There are two kinds: obstructive sleep apnea occurs when your airway collapses at night when you lie down and your muscles relax and is commonly associated with snoring. Central sleep apnea occurs when your sleeping brain stops telling your body to breathe. It is possible to have both types, but obstructive is by far the most common.
Every time your brain awakens to restore breathing, your sleep is interrupted. Your brain is never able to reach the restorative levels of sleep such as REM sleep. You may spend hours in bed, but you are not getting any rest. And every time your breathing stops, your heart responds by pumping harder, trying to get oxygen to the areas that are signaling they don’t have any.
Sleep apnea is associated with:
Mental conditions like depression and other mood disorders, lack of concentration leading to car accidents and other dangerous lapses
Cardiovascular conditions like coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, erratic heartbeat, heart attack, and stroke
For these reasons, it is important for people who suspect or know they have a problem to get treatment as soon as possible.