Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly, and you feel tired even after a full night's sleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of your throat relax. These muscles support the soft palate, the triangular piece of tissue hanging from the soft palate (uvula), the tonsils, the side walls of the throat and the tongue.
When the muscles relax, your airway narrows or closes as you breathe in, and you can't get an adequate breath in. This may lower the level of oxygen in your blood.
Your brain senses this inability to breathe and briefly rouses you from sleep so that you can reopen your airway. This awakening is usually so brief that you don't remember it.
You may make a snorting, choking or gasping sound. This pattern can repeat itself five to 30 times or more each hour, all night long. These disruptions impair your ability to reach the desired deep, restful phases of sleep, and you'll probably feel sleepy during your waking hours.
People with obstructive sleep apnea may not be aware that their sleep was interrupted. In fact, some people with sleep apnea think they sleep well all night.
Sleep apnea can affect anyone, even children. But certain factors increase your risk of obstructive sleep apnea:
Sleep apnea is considered a serious medical condition. Complications may include: