What is obstructive sleep apnea?

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Obstructive sleep apnea is a common cause of chronic feelings of fatigue. It’s a condition where you frequently stop, or nearly stop, breathing while you’re asleep. The pauses in your breathing can last for many seconds and can occur numerous times in an hour.

Each time your breathing gets very shallow or stops, your sleep is disturbed, even if you don’t wake up completely. As a result, your sleep is very fragmented and you feel tired during the day, even though you might have thought you slept well.

Obstructive sleep apnea happens because something is blocking your trachea, the airway that brings air into your lungs. The obstruction could be from your tongue, your tonsils, or your uvula; if you are overweight, it might be because you have a lot of fatty tissue in your throat area.

People with sleep apnea tend to snore very loudly, so often their bed partner is the first person to notice the symptoms.

Sleep apnea needs to be assessed by your doctor to find out what’s causing it and how to treat it. Weight loss will help, but many people need to use a special breathing machine to force air into their trachea while they sleep.

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