Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you briefly stop breathing while you are asleep. According to the American Sleep Apnea Association, more than 12 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. Being overweight is often the cause of sleep apnea. However, anyone can get sleep apnea -- even children.

People with sleep apnea stop breathing over and over again in their sleep. This causes harmful effects on your brain and heart and can cause depression and weight gain. There are three different types of sleep apnea.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs when something is blocking the airway. In the case of overweight people, it can mean that there is too much tissue around the neck and back of the throat. It can also occur when structures inside the nose and throat such as the tonsils or adenoids are enlarged. Most common causes of OSA:

  • Being overweight
  • Enlarged tonsils
  • Enlarged adenoids (adenoids shrink the older you get so this is usually a problem unique to children)
  • Genetic causes such as an inherited narrow airway or a large tongue. There are also certain genetic syndromes that make it more likely to get OSA such as Patau Syndrome (trisomy 13)
  • Taking sedatives before bedtime
  • Consuming alcoholic beverages
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Acromegaly
  • Lung disease
  • Nasal obstruction such as enlarged turbinates

Central Sleep Apnea

Central sleep apnea is different from OSA because there is no obstruction making it difficult to breathe. Instead your brain fails to send out the message to breathe at certain times when you are asleep. The most common cause of central sleep apnea is advanced heart failure, and stroke.

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