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cpap masksDespite the fact that 18 million Americans are estimated to have sleep apnea, statistics show that the disorder goes undiagnosed in two to four percent in all Americans -- meaning one in 50 individuals are undiagnosed. And many people who do not realize that they have the sleep disorder may not understand that it might be the underlying cause of their health problems.

What You Need to Know About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

So what is sleep apnea, anyway? Sleep apnea is defined as frequent disruptions in breathing patterns during te sleep cycle. Overall, there are three types of sleep apnea: Central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea. Of the three, obstructive sleep apnea is the most common and is caused by a physical blockage in the upper airways, typically caused by soft tissues within the throat and tongue collapsing around the airway. Obstructive sleep apnea accounts for around 85% of all sleep apnea cases. Some sleep apnea causes include obesity, deviated septums, and the shape of certain internal structures such as the neck.

When it comes to obstructive sleep apnea, some signs of the disorder include snoring, frequent breaks or pauses in breathing, constant exhaustion, frequent headaches upon waking, high blood pressure, obesity, and depressive mood swings.

Luckily, those suffering from the sleep disorder have many treatment options. For example, many experience an alleviation of sleep apnea by simply losing weight, helping to relieve pressure from the lungs and surrounding tissue. However, CPAP machines are commonly used to treat the disorder. CPAP stands for continuous airway pressure therapy. Using CPAP masks, a CPAP machine helps to increase the air pressure in a person's throat so the person's airway doesn't collapse when they breathe. CPAP masks ultimately help sufferers breathe more easily while sleeping.

Do you think you could have sleep apnea? Talk to your doctor about your symptoms and explore the possibility of having a sleep test performed.