Sleep apnea, known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is more common in the U.S. than asthma or diabetes. Generally, the disorder strikes men more often than women and it progressively worsens with age and increased weight. Basically, during sleep, relaxed muscle activity leads to a closing of the throat and airway, which forces sufferers to take in a deep breath of air and awakens them. This cycle repeats throughout the night, preventing the individual from getting a restful, deep sleep.
Clinical signs and symptoms of OSA include:
Intermittent snoring with pauses
Awakenings with gasping or choking
Gastro-esophageal reflux (GERD)
Fragmented, non-refreshing, light sleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness
Poor memory and/or clouded intellect
Decreased sex drive or impotence
Leading risk factors for OSA are obesity, increasing age, male gender, anatomic abnormalities of the upper airway, a family history of sleep apnea, alcohol or sedative use, smoking and hypertension.