It is caused by the excessive relaxation of the upper pharyngeal muscles and the tongue, resulting in complete obstruction of the airway and therefore reducing oxygenation of vital organs of the body.
People with sleep apnea snore loudly and suddenly stop breathing for short periods.
The cessation of breathing and the consequent reduction of oxygen levels in the blood, cause sleep disturbance, as the person awakens, passing from deep sleep stage to a lighter sleep stage. Awakening increases the tone of the pharyngeal muscles and opens the airway. With the opening of the airway, breathing resumes with deep breaths, and loud snoring occurs. These arousals are necessary to restart breathing, occur hundreds of times during the night and often go unnoticed by the sufferer.
People who suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, feel tired when they wake up and lack the refreshing effect that a sleep of good quality provides.
How common is sleep apnea?
The prevalence of sleep apnea is estimated at 4% of men and 2% of women. These rates refer to patients who exhibit intense daytime sleepiness. Studies using the appearance of pathological values in the AHI index as a sole criterion, give higher rates. A specific US study in patients aged 30-60 years showed an incidence of disease in 9-24% of males and 4-9% of women. It is important to emphasize that the above percentages underestimate the actual prevalence of the disease, which is believed to be much higher. It is estimated that 90% of people suffering from sleep apnea have not been diagnosed and given appropriate treatment.