Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes breathing to stop or get very shallow during sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and can occur 30 times or more an hour. The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea, which causes the airway to collapse or become blocked. Normal breathing starts again with a snort or choking sound. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly (though not everyone who snores has sleep apnea).
You are more at risk for sleep apnea if you are overweight, male or have a family history or small airways. Children with enlarged tonsils may also be prone to it. Diagnosis for sleep apnea is based on medical and family histories, a physical exam and sleep study results.
When your sleep is interrupted throughout the night, you can be drowsy during the day. People with sleep apnea are at higher risk for auto crashes, work-related accidents, and other medical problems. If you have it, it is important to get treatment. Lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, surgery and breathing devices can treat sleep apnea in most people.