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Apnea, Sleep

Abstract

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Synonyms of Apnea, Sleep

  • Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Disorder Subdivisions

  • Central Sleep Apnea
  • Mixed Sleep Apnea
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea (Upper Airway Apnea)
  • Pickwickian Syndrome

General Discussion

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by temporary, recurrent interruptions of breathing (respiration) during sleep. Symptoms of this disorder include periodic wakefulness during the night, excessive sleepiness during the day, and loud snoring during sleep. People with this disorder are frequently overweight. Diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea can avoid serious medical problems that may arise as a consequence of oxygen deprivation in untreated individuals. Sleep apnea occurs in three different forms: obstructive, central, and mixed.

An individual's rate of respiration is regulated by group of nerve cells in the brain that control the rhythm of breathing in response to changing oxygen levels in the blood (respiratory drive). In some apneas, the respiratory drive is abnormal. Obstructive sleep apnea (upper airway apnea) the most common form of sleep apnea, results from the blockage of the respiratory passages during sleep. Affected individuals may struggle to breathe and experience increased respiratory effort. Respiratory drive is unaffected in people with this form of sleep apnea but the blockage prevents them from breathing normally. Obstructive apnea is more likely than central apnea to be associated with snorting and arousal from sleep.

In the rare central sleep apnea, the brain does not send adequate signals to the diaphragm and lungs during sleep, resulting in low respiratory drive. In this form of sleep apnea, breathing stops and does not resume until the oxygen-deprived brain finally sends impulses to the diaphragm and lungs. In infants, central sleep apnea is defined as lasting 20 seconds or more.

Mixed sleep apnea is a combination of improper brain signals and obstruction of the respiratory passages. In some cases, sleep apnea is referred to as "Pickwickian Syndrome." In these cases, obstructive apnea is combined with obesity and an abnormally short neck. Infantile sleep apnea affects children less than one year old, and its cause is unknown. (For more information on infantile sleep apnea, see the Related Disorders section of this report.)

Apnea, Sleep Resources

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