What is Sleep Apnea?
In some people, the windpipe that brings air into the body is blocked during sleep. This keeps the lungs from getting enough air. This is called obstructive sleep apnea. People who have sleep apnea stop breathing for 10 to 30 seconds at a time while they are sleeping. These stops can happen up to 400 times every night. The consequences of these disturbances can be serious and sometimes life-threatening.
What happens when you Stop Breathing During Sleep?
If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing during sleep, and the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood is upset. This imbalance stimulates the brain to restart the breathing process. The brain signals you to wake up so that the muscles of the tongue and throat can increase the size of the airway. Then, carbon dioxide can escape, and oxygen can enter the airway. These waking episodes are necessary to restart breathing (and to save your life), but you become sleep-deprived.