Information for Patients
Also called: Sleep-disordered breathing
Sleep apnea is a common disorder that causes your breathing to stop or get very shallow. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour.
The most common type is obstructive sleep apnea. It causes your airway to collapse or become blocked during sleep. Normal breathing starts again with a snort or choking sound. People with sleep apnea often snore loudly. However, 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 or adenoids may also get it.
Doctors diagnose sleep apnea 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 car 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 many people.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
- Central sleep apnea (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Nasal CPAP (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Obesity hypoventilation syndrome (OHS) (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Obstructive sleep apnea (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Pediatric sleep apnea (Medical Encyclopedia)
- Uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP) (Medical Encyclopedia)
Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome Congenital central hypoventilation syndrome (CCHS) is a disorder that affects normal breathing. People with this disorder take shallow breaths (hypoventilate), especially during sleep, resulting in a shortage of oxygen and a buildup of carbon dioxide in the blood. Ordinarily, the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary body processes (autonomic nervous system) would react to such an imbalance by stimulating the individual to breathe more deeply or wake up. This nervous system reaction is impaired in people with CCHS. They must be supported with a machine to help them breathe (mechanical ventilation) or a device that stimulates a normal breathing pattern (diaphragm pacemaker). Some affected individuals need this support 24 hours a day, while others need it only at night.Symptoms of CCHS usually become apparent shortly after birth when affected infants hypoventilate upon falling asleep. In these infants, a lack of oxygen in the blood often causes a bluish appearance of the skin or lips (cyanosis). In some milder cases, CCHS may not become apparent until later in life.In addition to the breathing problem, people with CCHS may have difficulty regulating their heart rate and blood pressure, for example, in response to exercise or changes in body position. They also have decreased perception of pain, low body temperature, and occasional episodes of heavy sweating.People with CCHS may have additional problems affecting the nervous system. About 20 percent of people with CCHS have abnormalities in the nerves that control the digestive tract (Hirschsprung disease), resulting in severe constipation, intestinal blockage, and enlargement of the colon. (Some researchers refer to the combination of CCHS and Hirschsprung disease as Haddad syndrome.) Some affected individuals develop learning difficulties or other neurological problems. People with CCHS are also at increased risk of developing certain tumors of the nervous system called neuroblastomas, ganglioneuromas, and ganglioneuroblastomas.Additionally, individuals with CCHS usually have eye abnormalities, including a decreased response of the pupils to light. People with CCHS, especially children, may have a characteristic appearance with a short, wide, somewhat flattened face often described as "box-shaped."In CCHS, life expectancy and the extent of any intellectual disabilities depend on the severity of the disorder, timing of the diagnosis, and the success of treatment.