Sleep apnea is a disorder in which people experience shallow breathing or pauses in breathing during their sleep. The pauses can be for just a few seconds and they may last for a few minutes. They can occur anywhere between 5 to 30 times within the span of one hour. This is a chronic disorder and most people are never aware of the problem as it occurs during their sleep.

In a typical episode, the person's breathing passage becomes constricted and restricts breathing. This results in reduced oxygen supply to the body. When the brain detects this, it awakens the person and makes them breathe once again. This cycle can repeat often during the night, thereby causing interruption to a person's sleep. However, the person may not be aware of it consciously, and may only feel tired and drowsy during the day due to lack of proper sleep at night.

Without a family member who sleeps with the person notices the problem, the condition may never get noticed. Even doctors may not be able to detect it during a routine examination without the patient bringing the topic up. There are no specific blood tests to detect the presence of the condition either.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of this disorder, where the person's airway collapses or gets blocked during sleep. The blockage gives rise to shallow breathing or pauses in breathing. Especially people who are overweight and have excess fat under the chin may experience obstructive sleep apnea. Small children who have enlarged tonsils might also experience this condition.

Sleep Apnea Treatment

There are a number of different treatment options available for this particular illness. For mild forms of the disorder, oral appliances can be used to provide relief. These appliances are designed to keep the throat open during sleep, which effectively solves the problem of sleep apnea.

A sleep apnea pillow can also be used for mild cases of the disorder. The pillow is specifically designed to keep the air passage of the person open during sleep, therefore providing effective relief from the condition.

For people with moderate to severe forms of the disorder, a sleep apnea machine called a “continuous positive airway pressure” machine, or CPAP, would be helpful. This machine delivers positive air pressure through the nose using a mask placed over the face. The positive pressure forces air into the lungs and pregnancies any pauses in breathing during sleep.

Sleep apnea could lead to other health problems if left untreated. Therefore, proper detection and treatment are necessary for getting better sleep and maintaining good health.