The muscles that stiffen and open the throat tend to relax during sleep, causing the throat's opening to narrow slightly. In people with Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome (OSAS), this narrowing is so great that breathing becomes difficult. Eventually the person is awakened and falls back to sleep dozens to hundreds of times each night.
OSAS often occurs in overweight people, as fatty tissue in the neck affects the size or shape of the breathing passage. OSAS is not exclusive to overweight people. If you have OSAS, you may not be getting enough oxygen during sleep and probably don't sleep soundly.
Some warning signs in adults
- Excessively loud snoring.
- A pattern of snoring interrupted by pauses, then gasps, is a sign that breathing stops and restarts.
- Falling asleep at the wrong times, such as at work or while driving.
- Trouble concentrating, or becoming forgetful, irritable, anxious or depressed.
- Morning headaches or nausea.
Some warning signs in children
- Being overweight or having enlarged tonsils and/or adenoids.
- Certain birth defects that affect size/shape of throat, face or chin such as Down Syndrome.
- While asleep, children may snore or squeak, have difficulty breathing, or sleep fitfully.
- May seem sluggish or have daytime hyperactivity.
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