Excessive snoring can be more than a nuisance. It is often a sign of a serious medical disorder called sleep apnea, which affects more than 12 million Americans. People with sleep apnea stop breathing periodically while they’re sleeping. These episodes occur repeatedly and can last up to 90 seconds each time. This is caused by total or partial closure or obstruction of the upper airway (obstructive sleep apnea).


However, it can also be caused by the brain’s failure to send proper signals to the respiratory muscles (central sleep apnea). Central sleep apnea can be the result of neurological or medical problems. The effects of apnea can be both short-and long-term, including excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, personality changes, morning headaches, hypertension, irregular heart rhythm, impotence, and even death.


In children, it can lead to symptoms like Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Because it occurs during sleep, apnea can easily go undetected by the patient, and often it is a spouse who first notices the warning signs, which include:

• Loud irregular snoring, snorting, or gasping for breath.

• Pauses in breathing that can last 10 to 90 seconds.

• Restless sleep or sudden body movements before the person starts to breathe again.

• Excessive sweating during sleep.

• Labored breathing during sleep in children


Sleep apnea is treatable once it is properly diagnosed. The type of treatment depends on the severity of the apnea and the symptoms. Treatments include weight-loss, mouth-piece devices, surgery, or machines that facilitate better breathing during sleeping called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure(CPAP) machines. In children, tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy are over 90% curative.


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