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Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening sleep disorder characterized by repeated pauses in breathing during sleep. The term sleep apnea is derived from the Greek etymology meaning "without breath". Breathing pauses can last any where from several seconds to minutes, and can happen as often as 30 times or more per hour. Ongoing disrupted breathing causes an imbalance between the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the bloodstream, as not enough carbon dioxide is exiting and not enough oxygen is entering the body.

Sensing this imbalance, the brain sends a message to the body, telling it to wake up to restart the breathing process. People with sleep apnea will partially wake up as they struggle to breathe and this is often accompanied by loud snoring or choking. Because people with sleep apnea don't usually fully awake during these episodes, they are often unaware they have a sleeping disorder and it can remain undiagnosed.

There are two main types of apnea; Central Sleep Apnea occurs when the brain fails to send important signals to the breathing muscles. This is a neurological disorder and must be treated with CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). Obstructive Sleep Apnea occurs when air cannot flow the airway even though the body is trying to breathe. Obstructive sleep apnea is far more prevalent and is treatable by custom oral appliance therapy.


 

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