Sleep apnea is the disruption of normal breathing patterns while a person is sleeping. A healthy person will continue to breathe normally once they fall into a deep sleep. A person who has sleep apnea may stop breathing up to one hundred times a night, preventing the body from getting the oxygen it needs. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain does not send proper signals for the body to continue to breathe normally. Obstructive sleep apnea is the result of an obstruction blocking a person's airway while they are trying to sleep. Obstructions can be caused by the tongue falling back into the throat, fatty deposits, or inflammation within the airways themselves.
Sleep apnea may be prevented in certain cases. Individuals who are extremely overweight may be able to reduce the risk of experiencing sleep apnea by losing weight and taking pressure off of the abdomen, chest, and throat. Individuals who have been involved in an accident that affects how they breathe may be able to stop sleep apnea by having the abnormalities corrected through surgery. Knowing what the obstruction is will give the doctors the information they need to remove it and prevent sleep apnea from becoming a problem. If the problem has to do with the central nervous system and signals sent to and from the brain, medications may be able to help solve the problem.
If sleep apnea is not treated, oxygen levels within the body will begin to drop. Over time, they can fall to dangerous levels leading to severe headaches, inability to concentrate or stay on task, and possible stroke or other serious health conditions. Using CPAP machines forces oxygen into the lungs, making the body breathe properly. This will boost oxygen levels and help to keep the immune system functioning properly. Low oxygen levels affect every system within the body. It can lead to many different health conditions and cause many existing conditions to become worse over time.
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