Sleep apnea is a chronic disorder in which a person stops breathing for longer than ten seconds in their sleep. This occurrence can happen from three to 50 times an hour. Breathing often starts again accompanied by loud snoring, or a choking or gasping sound. Shallow or labored breathing during sleep can also be signs of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is most common in people who are overweight, drink before bedtime, or take narcotic or sleep aid prescriptions. Narrowed or blocked airways in the nose, mouth, or throat cause breathing to briefly cease; this occurs during sleep because laying down puts a person’s airways in a position more conducive to being blocked, particularly if they have a large uvula, or enlarged tonsils or adenoids. Central sleep apnea, a less common form of sleep apnea, can be caused by a stroke, heart disease, or a brain tumor or infection.
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