Sleep apnea is a condition in which disturbed breathing interrupts sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common type of sleep apnea, affects approximately 24% of middle-aged men and 9% of middle-aged women in Canada.
Most people suffering from sleep apnea also snore, but there's a big difference between the two conditions. While snoring can be annoying, sleep apnea can be life-threatening. During an apnea episode, the body's oxygen levels can drop noticeably, carbon dioxide builds up, and the heart has to work harder to cope. Each time it happens, the brain sends a wake up signal so that the person can breathe, and this means never getting a good night's sleep.
Untreated sleep apnea can cause dangerous daytime sleepiness as well as contribute to a higher risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack.